U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is asking the FBI to share more information with local agencies offering assistance to victims of Orlando’s gay nightclub shooting, according to a letter released Tuesday.
The letter Rubio wrote last month to FBI Director James Comey requested reforms and said some victims had their assistance delayed because the FBI didn’t share information with the city of Orlando.
Many victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting or their families filled out forms they believed would start the process of getting short-term help paying for funeral arrangements and other assistance after the June 12 attack. The forms had logos of both the FBI and city. But the FBI informed the city that the FBI was using the forms for its investigation and wouldn’t share them, said Rubio, a Florida Republican.
The refusal to share information left the city “with no other way of obtaining information regarding the victims’ needs,” Rubio said in the letter. “This has resulted in an unknown number of my constituents — who believed they were applying for aid two months ago — receiving no assistance from the local agency, because only the FBI knows who they are and has the contact information to follow up with them.”
Special Agent Amy Pittman, an FBI spokeswoman in Tampa, said officials in Washington were preparing a response to the letter.
Rubio suggested that the FBI should contact the applicants who haven’t gotten assistance individually and notify them that they need to complete additional forms, or the FBI could provide the city just with the first page of an applicant’s intake form which just has contact information and the help they’re requesting.
Forty-nine people were killed and 53 others were hospitalized as a result of the attack. Gunman Omar Mateen, who had pledged alliance to the Islamic State group, was killed in a shootout with SWAT team members after a three-hour standoff.
Separately, Rubio’s Democratic rival in November’s election, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, asked the head of the IRS on Tuesday to provide guidance for the victims and their families on whether they will have to pay taxes on money they receive from the OneOrlando fund, which was grown to $26 million from donations all over the world. Distribution of the money for the victims of the Pulse massacre begins at the end of the month.
Murphy said in a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen that there are precedents from other tragedies to exempt the distributions from being considered taxable income.
“The compassion of a heartbroken nation should not lead to a massive tax bill,” Murphy said.