The victims of the terrorist attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., are set to receive nearly $8.5 million in payouts from a terrorism victims fund established after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program grant will be given to Florida’s attorney general on Wednesday, the Justice Department said today. The state will then distribute the funds.
Congress amended the 1984 Victims of Crime Act after Oklahoma City to establish a funds reserve for specific assistance connected to acts of terrorism, accessible by state victim compensation programs, governments and prosecutors, universities or victim assistance NGOs.
Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old New York native, opened fire at the LGBT nightclub June 12, 2016, killing 49 people and wounded 53. He claimed allegiance to ISIS on calls to 911 during the rampage, and the Islamic State has hailed Mateen in propaganda materials ever since.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the funding “will provide important support to the victims, their loved ones and communities who were affected by last year’s devastating attack” on the dance club.
“We continue to mourn those who were taken from us that awful day, and we admire the resilience of the great city of Orlando,” Sessions said. “With this grant, we reaffirm the Justice Department’s commitment to the people of Orlando, the families of the victims and all who are helping those affected by this heinous crime.”
The DOJ’s Office for Victims of Crime similarly awarded grants after the 2015 San Bernardino attack and the 2015 mass shooting at a Charleston, S.C., church, among other attacks perpetrated by Islamist or white supremacist terrorists.
A federal judge ruled last week that Mateen’s widow, Noor Salman, should remain behind bars, overriding an Oakland, Calif., judge’s decision to release her on bail.
Salman was arrested in January on charges of aiding her husband; they allegedly scouted potential attack locations together and he watched ISIS recruiting videos with her knowledge. Her defense attorney has claimed Salman was an unwitting passenger during the scouting trips.