Why isn't donated money being given to Grenfell survivors?
August 16, 2017 7:16 AM   Subscribe

I read this brief article, and once again I'm at a loss. I donate because I want to help in some small way, especially when it's in a place I can't physically volunteer. Yet there always seems to be an issue with the money actually getting to the intended people. Does anyone here have knowledge, maybe through working for one of these organizations, as to why this continues to happen? Is there any place to donate in times of crisis where the majority of funds will actually reach the people who need it?
posted by racersix6 to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It is hard to distribute money to victims of a disaster (man-made or natural). The process is complicated. You need to figure out who should get money and how much they should get. You need to avoid fraud.

Kevin Feinberg may be the world's leading expert on managing large-scale victim compensation programs. He ran the U.S. government's 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, the TARP Executive Compensation Program, the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund, and the One Fund—the victim assist fund created after the Boston Marathon bombing.

The Wikipedia article on the Deepwater Horizon Victim Compensation Fund discusses some of the issues that Feinberg faced distributing money, and the criticism he received for his choices and the speed with which the money was given out.

I've heard him speak about this on NPR. I don't have time to find it, but it's worth a listen. He's had a fascinating life, and faced decisions that few people have to make. He has also written books about the process: What Is Life Worth?: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Fund and Its Effort to Compensate the Victims of September 11th and Who Gets What: Fair Compensation after Tragedy and Financial Upheaval.
posted by alms at 7:36 AM on August 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

You may be interested in this article about how the Manchester bomb appeal is allocating money (which also mentions Grenfell Tower), particularly the complexities involved e.g. who exactly in a family should get the money? How do you allocate money between bereaved families, the injured, those suffering mental health issue etc. I found it a fascinating (and heart-rending) read.
posted by firesine at 7:54 AM on August 16, 2017

And see an additional issue that has arisen in connection with the 9/11 distributions: CFPB and New York Attorney General Sue RD Legal for Scamming 9/11 Heroes Out of Millions of Dollars in Compensation Funds

It's hard work, the direct distribution of cash.
posted by praemunire at 7:57 AM on August 16, 2017

Keep in mind as well there are economies of scale involved that really can't be leveraged by just funneling money to individuals involved in a mass tragedy.

One example - food and clothing. You could give a bunch of money to people to procure their own meals, however if you've lost your home that means eating out or takeout. They can go shopping for clothes in a state of desperation. That means huge markup eating into how far that money will go. Alternatively, someone like the Red Cross can setup a kitchen where healthy meals are provided en masse to those affected which maximizes how far those dollars can go. For clothes, even delaying the shopping trip to have underwear for tomorrow is a way to ensure people can spend time where they need it - which is with their loved ones.

Another one - lodging. You could funnel money to individuals to compensate them for finding a hotel while more permanent lodging is undertaken. Or, you could setup a temporary shelter to house people that costs way, way less per person than a hotel earning profit will cost.

A third one - health services. You can provide money (or some kind of reimbursement system) to people to help compensate them for their health expenses. Each will go to a provider, and depending on their need, may have to queue up for services and may or may not have enough money on the per-person disbursement to cover what it costs to be treated. Or you can contract health services en masse to treat victims as priorities and cover the costs of those services as they accrue.

A fourth one is - basic life administration. Getting food, finding a hotel and then an apartment, and getting to health appointments while potentially dealing with family in the hospital is exhausting. For many people, doing this day to day is a hard enough cross to bear - let alone also dealing with a tragedy. Someone to coordinate the basics in your life so you can go about caring for and/or grieving your family is a godsend.

Finally - there's the question of fairness. For an insurance policy or a will, there's a clear indication of where the persons estate should go. When there is no will or estate plan, generally speaking things often get contentious and cause families a great deal of stress as different people feel entitled to different things. Handing the dollars off to one person and saying "it's a gift, do what you want with it" seems like a very clean way to go about things, but is it fair to the person's broader family?

What irritates me to no end us - that is what the administration cost of organizations responding to crises often are. People aren't shuffling forms around in an office - they are helping people directly. The services they provide should be considered equivalent to putting money in people's hands, not to mention the costs of having an organization running that can actually respond quickly to a tragedy.
posted by notorious medium at 9:21 AM on August 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

notorious medium, this is in the UK where we have the free to use NHS so there are no healthcare costs to be considered. I do think given the time period for the Manchester victims to be compensated, there may be a similar delay for the Grenfell victims.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:15 PM on August 16, 2017

« Older Help me find videos of well-known people saying...   |   What's the name of the kind of con game that... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.