Oakland Fire Fund Frequently Asked Questions

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 March 3, 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. Beyond the needs of victims, Gray Area has significantly sought to address the needs of those extended relations who may not be identified by initial relief efforts (see the Family Tree designation in the eligibility section below). 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 the three main categories of Relief, Recovery, and Resiliency, with further specifications for each. (See 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. We have identified four groups to support thus far. Those eligible include significant others, roommates, business/artistic partners, family members who are not next of kin, and friends of 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
    Many families have declined financial support and instead requested that these funds be allocated to programs designed for long-term impact and community renewal. The Resiliency project is informed by current responsibilities and forthcoming community outreach and will unfold in a third phase following the disbursement of Relief and Recovery funds. Gray Area is committed to serving our community in 2017 and beyond, be that through education, legislation, or providing the means necessary to create safe spaces.



    How do I file a claim and what is the deadline?

    The online intake form has been available since December 7, 2016 and will close at 5PM Pacific Standard Time on March 7, 2017: Fill out the online intake form.No further claimants for Relief and Recovery will be considered after March 7, 2017.



    What documentation is required to receive funds?

    Our program managers will specify what is needed for each disbursement category, for all categories we require supporting Identification for the claimant such as a state issued photo ID and supporting victim relationship documents such as birth, death, or marriage certificate. Some categories require financial impact statements and proof of incurred expenses.



    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 program manager 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 support. (Please see eligibility section for descriptions of each of these categories.)



    Has anyone been turned away?

    As of Friday, March 3, 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 by the end of phase 2 (end of April, see timeline).



    Can I get more details about the “roughly” 4.7% in fees deducted from the amount displayed on YouCaring?

    WePay, YouCaring’s merchant provider, charges 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction. Some transactions could not be processed, effectively removing the donation from the final deposits. These pending transactions are not reflected in the total displayed on the YouCaring page and have been included in our calculation of the 4.7% deducted fees.



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

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



    Will I be reimbursed for bills 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 determine an allocation amount per category.



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

    We cannot provide tax advice, please consult with a licensed professional. Please consult your tax advisor. We at Gray Area cannot provide tax advice regarding these payments.



    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! Donations are still be collected through YouCaring.



    How else can I help?

    Gray Area is continuing to collect funds online and in partnership with foundations, businesses, and individuals.

    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 those affected by the Ghost Ship 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 .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, such as assistance at related events and promotions.



    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.