Frequently Asked Questions
Oakland Fire Fund

Having received many inquiries from a variety of sources, we hope the information provided here will address any confusion or curiosity about the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts’ Oakland Fire Relief, Recovery, and Resiliency Fund. This page will continue to be updated as needed. (Last updated April 18, 2017)


Why relief, recovery, and resiliency?

It is important to note that traditional aid organizations only serve next-of-kin and those displaced by and injured in the fire. Gray Area has significantly sought to address these groups as well as those extended relations who may not be identified by initial relief efforts (see the Family Tree designation in the eligibility section below). Gray Area has disbursed funds to many who did not receive financial support from the Oakland As and Warriors fund, which was administered by the Red Cross. Additionally, there is a long-term need for education and support of many kinds to create safe spaces for artists to share and thrive in the Bay Area. This fund is being managed to ensure relief for the victims’ families, the recovery of our extended community, and a resiliency effort to help ensure such a tragedy doesn’t happen again in our community — and any we can influence.



Who is eligible for help?

Eligible claimants fall into two main categories, Relief & Recovery, with further specifications for each. Fund efforts will continue with a Resiliency program. (Details below.)

Relief

The Relief allocation includes funding for victims injured in the fire, the biological families of deceased victims, and displaced residents of the warehouse. These are the exact categories developed by the Red Cross in partnership with the Oakland A’s Fund.

  • Injured fire victims: Claimants who were injured in the building on the night of the event and were hospitalized and/or received medical treatment.
  • Families of deceased victims (next of kin): One claim per family will be accepted in this category. In the case of conflicting or multiple claims submitted for a deceased victim, we require families to resolve all issues with regard to who is legally responsible for administering the estate of the deceased in order to identify who is eligible to file the claim.
  • Displaced: Residents of the Ghost Ship warehouse who were displaced by the fire and are not party to a lawsuit related to fault of the fire. (Adults or Minors)

  • Recovery

    Recovery allocation includes support for survivors of the fire and non-biological relationships that are considered family, such as life partners (who may have not been legally married) and relationships considered to be next of kin that may not be typically recognized by relief efforts.

  • Survivors: Claimants who were physically present inside the Ghost Ship at the time of the fire and did not suffer physical injury requiring medical treatment but have suffered mental hardship, causing lost time at work. Claimants must not be party to a lawsuit in which they may be named at fault of the fire.
  • Family Tree: Designed to recognize and support those who are not legally connected to the deceased victims but are experiencing financial hardship in the wake of the tragedy, this allocation is split into 37 “branches” to allow aid for those connected to the 36 deceased and one critically injured victim. Claims will be associated with one (or more) branch. Those eligible include significant others, roommates, business/artistic partners, family members who are not next of kin, and friends or family who can prove they incurred financial expenses.
  • Biological Family: Siblings and parents who are not identified as next of kin. (Typically, next of kin for unmarried are parent or child or married is spouse.)
  • Significant Other: The domestic partner, fiancé(e), or girlfriend/boyfriend of a victim. (Spouses are legally next of kin.)
  • Roommate: Those who shared a lease or home with a victim on December 2, 2016.
  • Artistic/Business Partner: An individual who created professional work with a victim.


  • Resiliency

    Some recipients have requested that their funds be reallocated to programs designed for long-term impact and community renewal. The Resiliency project is informed by current responsibilities and forthcoming community outreach that will unfold in a third phase of work following the disbursement of Relief and Recovery funds. Donations are being collected here. Gray Area is committed to serving the affected communities in 2017 and beyond, be that through education, legislation, or providing the means necessary to create safe spaces. We plan on announcing details during the summer of 2017.

    We also would like to address some questions around the Resiliency phase of this effort. The new YouCaring campaign was established to make sure that if any money continues to come into Gray Area that’s marked for this fund, it will be used for the communities affected by the lack of safe spaces for gatherings such as the one that took place that night. Please know that money raised from this effort will go to those impacted by this tragedy. Once we finish the casework and distribution administration for the current allocations, we will provide additional details.



    How do I file a claim?

    The intake form was available online for 90 days, from December 7, 2016 until March 7, 2017 at 5PM Pacific Standard Time. No further claims for Relief and Recovery funds will be considered after March 7, 2017.



    How are individual allocations determined? How will the money be distributed?

    The amounts are determined by the balance of the fund, the number of eligibility categories, the total number of eligible claims within each category, and receipt of all required supporting documentation. The fund administration presents this information to the oversight committee for review, and Gray Area’s Board of Directors approves the final allocations.



    How are the funds prioritized?

    Claims are prioritized as follows: next of kin/families of deceased victims, injured fire victims, displaced residents, survivors, and those eligible for Family Tree allocations. (Please see the eligibility section at the top of this page for descriptions of each of these categories.)



    Has anyone been turned away?

    As of Tuesday, May 9, 2017, no legitimate claims have been denied. Despite some misconceptions being shared on social media, Gray Area has not turned down a single legitimate claim for financial support. Ostensibly dubious claims are under review. All claimants will be informed of their eligibility during the final phase of disbursements, set to be completed in early May 2017. (See timeline.)



    What documentation is required to receive funds?

    Our program managers will specify what is needed for each disbursement category in private communication with each claimant. For all categories, we require supporting identification, such as a state-issued photo ID. Some categories require financial impact statements and proof of incurred expenses.



    Will I be reimbursed for expenses incurred as a result of the tragedy?

    After extensive research and consultation with experienced fund managers and relief efforts, we determined that the quickest and most equitable way to distribute the funds was not needs-based. Based on the financial impact statements provided by claimants, we are able to determine an allocation amount per category.



    What expenses qualify for proof of financial impact?

    According to these IRS guidelines, loss of wages or business income does not qualify. Expenses of funeral and memorial costs, grief counseling, and therapy costs are eligible.

    We need at least one document showing any cost incurred for either self care or to help create a memorial or funeral. (A bank statement is a great double-purpose document. It acts as a secondary ID and shows your expenses.) Examples of documents: A receipt, bank statement, letter from a doctor. These can be in the form of a photo, scan, or screenshot. We only need you to provide a minimum of one eligible expense, but we ask that you provide an overview of your financial impact in the area provided on the form (Financial Impact Documentation section) in order for us to understand your personal impact. Do not exhaust yourself over this effort. Any qualifying expense within the specified areas is sufficient, but please provide us with as much documentation as you have available. In place of a receipt, a care worker who provided services to you can complete a letter stating their services and the cost to you. We can provide you a form for them to fill out upon request.

    We are available to discuss any questionable expenses directly.



    Can I get more details about the “roughly” 4.7% in fees deducted from the phase one allocation budget, mentioned in the January 25th press release?

    In the January 25th press release, we mentioned a discrepancy between the phase one allocation budget and the total displayed on the YouCaring campaign page. WePay, YouCaring’s merchant provider, charges 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction. When we calculated the amount we had to work with for the first phase of allocations, we had to deduct these fees from the allocation budget. Some transactions could not be processed, effectively removing the donation from the final deposits. These pending transactions were not reflected in the total displayed on the YouCaring page, and we thought it important to clarify the discrepancy in totals.



    How much of the money raised is being used to cover administrative costs?

    Hundreds of hours of skilled labor are being offered pro bono, including legal counsel, accounting, and efforts from Gray Area’s staff. As both the amount of donations and claims grew, it became clear that volunteer help would not be sufficient to administer the fund, and Gray Area hired administration staff in early January to this end. The administrative and overhead costs for the first two phases of the fund management will remain at approximately 5% of the total donations.



    Are payments from the Gray Area Oakland Fire Fund subject to federal income tax?

    Please consult with a licensed professional. We at Gray Area cannot provide tax advice regarding your individual financial circumstances and how these payments will effect that.



    What is Gray Area’s EIN/Tax ID for Tax Deduction?

    Gray Area Foundation for the Arts is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with the tax ID of 26-3383316.



    Can I still donate?

    Yes! However, donations are no longer being collected for Relief & Recovery recipients. The original crowdfunding campaign through YouCaring has been deactivated as of April 14, 2017. Gray Area is only accepting donations to the Oakland Fire Fund for the Resiliency project as of this date. You can also donate to Peaches, who was critically injured but survived the fire and is still in the hospital, directly.



    How else can I help?

    Gray Area is continuing to collect funds online to support the development of ongoing programs for long-term impact and community security in the Bay Area.

    For professionals offering pro bono medical, mental health, building, legal, or other services, we ask that you fill out this form.. Although our current efforts are focused on disbursing allocations to those affected by the fire, Gray Area is concerned about affordable housing, community spaces, and practice spaces for artists, as well as those living and working in unsafe conditions in order to sustain their artistic practice.

    For those interested in providing general assistance, we ask that you fill out this form. Again, our immediate focus is on those directly affected by the tragic fire, but we are eager to provide services and support where needed. We welcome volunteers and donations of goods, time, or other skill sets and resources to help organize around these issues.



    How can I ask a question? Can I talk to someone directly?

    Yes. As this effort extends beyond Gray Area’s typical programs, we ask that you use these dedicated lines of communication: oaklandrelief@grayarea.org or 415-746-9767. Please do not use Gray Area’s general phone line or email to request information about this effort.

    Dedicated Oakland Fire Relief Fund Contact

    oaklandrelief@grayarea.org
    415-746-9767

    Please do not call/email Gray Area's direct lines.