9/11 attorney advises Prescott on donations to Hotshot families
PRESCOTT - Attorney Kenneth R. Feinberg has been called one of the world's leading experts on victim compensation funds.
He's administered, or advised in, the disbursement of funds for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, the Aurora, Colo., shootings, the Newtown, Conn., shootings, and the Virginia Tech shootings. Following the event of Sept. 11, 2001, he worked on a victim's compensation fund with the U.S. government - which differs from the administration of funds raised in the public sector.
His expertise also has been sought by the Granite Mountain 19 Distribution Advisory Committee on how best to handle the substantial outpouring of donations given to the families of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who perished while battling the Yarnell Hill fire June 30.
He provided that service free of charge, as he's done in the past.
"Policymakers, presidents, governors, mayors, have called and asked for my assistance. Like thousands and maybe millions of Americans, who have stepped up, I'm glad to help out those who died and those who are physically injured in any way I can," Feinberg said.
Feinberg said he received calls and an email from committee representatives asking for assistance in Prescott.
"They called me to ask if I would send them the protocols that we designed to administer Boston Marathon, Aurora, Colorado, and Virginia Tech. I got another email about tax implications and whether or not it would be taxable. I told them it wouldn't - at least it wouldn't in our situation," he said.
In Massachusetts, administrators distributed $60 million in just 60 days to families affected by the Boston Marathon bombings, Feinberg said.
"There was no overhead cost, pro bono, with the families getting about $2.2 million each tax-free," he said.
The local five-member distribution advisory committee formed in early August to handle issues related to Hotshots fundraising through Prescott Firefighters Charities and the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association, especially the approximately $4.7 million those organizations have received since June 30. Funds for the families of the Hotshots aren't expected to be disbursed until December, at the earliest, committee representatives said during a late August press conference.
Feinberg said money collected in other incidents, such as the Boston Marathon bombings, were divvied out evenly, regardless of family size or other considerations.
"That is whatever amount is set aside for death claims - every death is valued the same. It's very important in the funds that I have done. I'm not saying that will apply in Arizona," Feinberg said. "In all of the other funds that I have worked on, if there is X dollars available to the families of those who died, every one of those families collect the same amount of money. There was no effort to give more to those with larger families or unemployed versus those who are single or didn't have dependents. We didn't make any of those distinctions. We decided that all lives are equal and that the money should be quickly and efficiently distributed to the families of those who died in the same amount, and that's what we did in every single one of these cases."
David Liebowitz, spokesperson for the advisory committee, said Feinberg's assistance was sought in an advisory capacity.
"He's helping the firefighter groups put together how to distribute this money. He has been an advisor talking about how best to structure the distribution models," Liebowtiz said.
The committee has not yet made public how the local money will be distributed.