Benefit fund for Orlando club shooting victims begins payments
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A message drawn on the black fabric that surrounds the Pulse night club is pictured following the shootings earlier this year in Orlando, Florida, U.S., September 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
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By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - A benefit fund that raised about $29.5 million for the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando began to make payments on Tuesday, the city said, with the estates of those killed receiving $350,000 each.
The OneOrlando Fund, which approved the payout plan on Monday night, said that more than half the money will go toward the loved ones of the 49 people who died as a result of the rampage at the popular Pulse night spot on June 12, according to the plan posted on the fund's website.
In addition to those killed, dozens were wounded in the rampage before police fatally shot the 29-year-old gunman, Omar Mateen, following a three-hour standoff inside the dance club.
Those who were injured will get payouts ranging from $300,000 to $35,000, based on the number of days they were hospitalized or whether they received outpatient care, the website said. Those who were at the club that night but were not injured will get $25,000.
But even on the first day of the payouts, there was already rancor. Family members and partners of about half of those who were killed are disputing who should receive payments, Orlando city spokeswoman Heather Fagan said by phone.
If the disputes are not resolved soon, the money will be deposited in probate court where a judge will decide, she said
With the exception of a handful of cases in which a claimant's presence at Pulse had not yet been confirmed, disbursements should be completed by Friday, she said.
One victim, Jillian Amador, who the Orlando Sentinel reported was hurt in a fall while running from the club, unsuccessfully tried in court to halt the payments until the fund could be audited, court records show.
Fagan said OneOrlando argued against delaying disbursements, noting that the fund pooled donations that had been made to three other organizations, all of which had been audited prior to combining the money. She said the fund had intended to conduct an audit after the disbursements.
A judge on Tuesday set a hearing date on Amador's case for Oct. 6.
U.S. authorities said Mateen pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State militant group during the rampage but acted alone, without assistance or orders from abroad, to commit the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
(Reporting by Barbara Liston; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Leslie Adler)
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