Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr.
Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. and city officials gathered Thursday to announce a plan for distributing donations made to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund.
To date, the city has received approximately $2.8 million for the fund and expects tens of thousands more before the donation window closes at the end of the year. Of the total money raised, more than $300,000 was used by the city to cover the funeral costs of the nine victims and handle emergency expenses incurred by Emanuel AME Church.
An allocation formula was developed to handle the distribution of the remaining $2.5 million. The six dependent children of the victims will receive 10 percent of the donations. Five percent of the funds will go toward the college-age dependents of the victims to pay for education expenses. That money will be distributed based on the number of semesters remaining for each student. The five church members who were in Emanuel AME at the time of the shooting, including the wife and child of victim Rev. Clementa Pinckney, will receive 25 percent of the donations, divided among them equally.
More than half of the fund will be given to the victims’ families. Since most of the victims did not have wills in place at the time of their deaths, this money will be allocated using a tiered system based on relation to the deceased. For example, if a victim is survived by a wife and two children, the wife will receive 50 percent and the remaining half will be divided between the children.
According to Mayor Riley, more than 6,500 individuals and businesses contributed from all over the world. The mayor has promised to personally send notes of thanks to the 4,600 donors who mailed in their donations.
“The generosity of the human spirit is always so surprising and reassuring. So certainly to get donations from each state in our country, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and four countries abroad just gives you goosebumps to think about it,” said Riley. “All I know is this instance, the tragedy of this hateful act, the bigoted, hateful act that caused it, touched the hearts of citizens really around the world.”
Riley and the legal and financial representatives who developed the allocation plan said they met with the families of the victims and survivors throughout the process and distribution of the fund should begin soon.
The remaining 5 percent of the Hope Fund will be placed in a “special needs” account. This money will be available to those who received financial support from the victims, but shared no direct relation to them. These individuals will have until March 15, 2016 to file claims for a share of the money. To receive a payment, they must submit an application proving that they received past support from a victim. Money remaining in this fund after the deadline will be distributed in accordance with the other four categories.
Attorney Joseph Rice is one of the 42 legal professionals who donated their services to organize the allocation strategy.
“Much time has gone into the development of the plan. Is it perfect? No. But we can’t let perfect be the enemy of the very good,” said Rice. “And that’s what we have here — a very good, fair, equitable plan.”