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Thousands of Californians are eligible for Las Vegas shooting compensation funds, but they haven't applied

Thousands of Californians are eligible for Las Vegas shooting compensation funds, but they haven't applied
Community members gather in Las Vegas days after the Oct. 1 mass shooting that left 58 people dead and more than 700 wounded. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Six months after a Las Vegas music festival became the scene of the largest mass shooting in modern American history, the vast majority of Californians who were there have not applied for the financial assistance available to cover lost wages, funeral expenses, counseling or other medical bills.

Of the 22,000 concert attendees, about 14,000 were from California, according to the California Victim Compensation Board, a decades-old state agency assisting victims of crime. It is working with its counterpart in Nevada because so many concert attendees were from those two states.

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As of last week, the California agency had received about 2,700 applications.

A total of 58 people were killed in the massacre that Stephen Paddock conducted from his room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. More than 700 were wounded, and thousands are thought to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

California residents who were at the concert have up to three years to submit claims for reimbursements of up to $70,000, said Christie Munson, deputy executive officer of the California fund.

Californians are also eligible to apply for up to $35,000 in reimbursements through the Nevada Victims of Crime, but that deadline is Oct. 1 — one year from the day of the massacre.

Rebecca Salazar, program manager for Nevada's fund, said it had received a total of 4,477 applications through Thursday from victims in 45 states and several in Canada.

"I've found that most people aren't aware that programs like this exist," Salazar said in an email. "We are getting a lot of press here in Nevada, but only 11% of the attendees are from here, so I'm not surprised about the low numbers."

States with established crime victim funds generally require for reimbursement that the crime had to have occurred within the state. But given the scale of the tragedy, California and at least one other state are offering assistance.

"We would not turn a victim away if they applied in Oregon," Kristina Edmunson, a spokeswoman for the attorney general there, said in an email.

The Canadian government is offering residents there who were affected by the shooting up to $10,000 in reimbursements for medical treatments not already covered by insurance.

Munson said that not since 9/11 have there been so many potential applicants from California, and that some of the victims may have needs that extend beyond the $70,000 cap. She said that over the next few months, the state will seek a federal grant that could provide more money.

"What we do know is both California and Nevada will be working to make sure those folks get what they need," Munson said. "We're in the beginning stages of getting the grant together, meeting with victims and finding out what their needs are."

The victim funds can be used for co-pays when medical insurance covers treatments for wounds. Already, the state has helped victims with funeral expenses for some who died at the concert.

The California victims fund allows for $10,000 to be applied toward mental health and counseling costs. In Nevada, counseling costs are capped at $5,000.

Russ Bleck, a 28-year-old in Las Vegas, said he hadn't applied for any assistance because he figured "others needed the money more than me." But he lost his job after the shooting.

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"I wasn't able to perform," he said.

He said he would like counseling and that the victims fund money could help toward those bills. He said he doesn't have insurance.

"I used to be super-social, but now I keep to myself," he said. "Six months after, I'm starting to realize I need help."

People affected by the shooting have also begun receiving checks from the Las Vegas Victims Fund — a nonprofit organization established through donations from individuals and the casinos. Those disbursements are capped at $275,000 for the 58 who died and 10 who suffered permanent paralysis or brain injuries. Others received checks ranging from $17,500 to $200,000.

All disbursements from the Las Vegas Victims Fund are independent of the crime victim funds established in the states.

Salazar said she hoped people who need help through the Nevada Victims of Crime fund apply before the deadline.

"We continue to receive applications every day, and our Vegas Strong Resiliency Center does daily outreach so hopefully the applications will continue to come in," she said in an email. "But I think it's understandable when you think about the fact that victims from every state came to the concert. I hear a lot of people say they don't want to watch the news and hear about the shooter or the event, so maybe in not watching or reading, they aren't hearing about programs that can help either."

To apply for assistance in Nevada, the website is: http://voc.nv.gov/VOC/1October_Event_Help/

For California residents, the website is: http://victims.ca.gov/lasvegas/

Twitter: @davemontero

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