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AG Lynch promises Orlando funding: "We stand with you"

ORLANDO, Florida - The Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando was an emotional tragedy for dozens of families, and it could become a financial one as well.

There were 49 shooting victims in the June 12 massacre, and another 53 required hospitalization. Many cannot afford the massive medical bills and funeral expenses the shooting created.

What we've learned from Orlando shooting documents

On top of the cost to families, both state and municipal entities sent many first responders and law enforcement personnel to the scene, racking up huge bills there as well.

After a request for $5 million in FEMA emergency disaster funding by Gov. Rick Scott was denied earlier Tuesday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said while visiting Orlando that the Department of Justice was prepared to financially support both families and the local government to some degree.

"The Department of Justice is making $1 million in emergency funding available to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement," Lynch said. "The state will be able to apply for funds on behalf of Orlando and other affected jurisdictions to cover overtime costs for state and local responders."

The DOJ is also providing counseling to first responders from the Orlando massacre, Lynch said, "because in their bravery, they shoulder the dangers visited upon us and carry that weight long after the smoke has cleared."

As for victims and their families, Lynch said the DOJ had partnered with local officials to set up "a Family Assistance Center." There, those affected by the Orlando shooting can find counseling, post-disaster planning assistance, and other support.

Additionally, Lynch promised to make "federal emergency funds and victim compensation funding available to cover family travel expenses, medical and mental health expenses and other costs related to the tragedy."

After what she called a "very difficult meeting" with victims' relatives, Lynch directly addressed the LGBT community, saying, "We stand with you to say that the good in the world far outweighs the evil ... and that our most effective response to terror and hatred is compassion, unity and love."

Her remarks at a news conference followed briefings by U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley and other law enforcement officials, including prosecutors assigned to the investigation.

"I think there's a real benefit to having her here to see everything firsthand," Bentley said as the two stood with their arms around each other.

The Attorney General praised the LGBT community's "determination" to live lives free of fear.

"We stand with you today as we grieve together. And long after the cameras are gone, we will continue to stand with you as we grow together, in commitment, in solidarity and in equality," Mynch said.

In the aftermath of other mass shootings - including San Bernardino, California, and Newtown, Connecticut - state officials did not request FEMA emergency aid like Gov. Scott did on Florida's behalf. Massachusetts officials made a request after the Boston Marathon bombing, which was considered an ongoing event as law enforcement pursued the bombers for several days.

It's not clear how much exactly the police and emergency personnel response cost, nor how the DOJ funding will be distributed.

Earlier Tuesday, FEMA spokesman Rafael Lemaitre said that the agency has, despite denying the emergency funding, approved a request from Florida to reallocate $253,000 in unspent money from the Homeland Security Grant Program to help pay for overtime costs in the wake of the shooting.

The shooting has fostered discussion about U.S. government efforts to identify and thwart individuals bent on violence - Mateen had been interviewed by the FBI three times since 2013 as part of two separate investigations and placed on a terror watch list - but also about whether stiffer gun control laws are needed.

Video, 911 transcripts offer insight into Orlando massacre

The Senate on Monday rejected proposals from both parties to keep extremists from acquiring guns, including one that was publicly supported by the Justice Department. On Tuesday, they finally announced a compromise of sorts.

Lynch has said federal investigators are still uncertain as to what drove Mateen to violence and to what extent he may also have been motivated by anti-gay hatred.

Investigators have done hundreds of interviews, including with family members, and are working in particular to determine how much knowledge his wife had of the plot. Lynch's meeting with first responders comes as Orlando police face continued questions about the response to the rampage.

On Monday, police Chief John Mina said that if any fire from responding officers hit victims at the club, Mateen bears the responsibility.

"Those killings are on the suspect, on the suspect alone in my mind," he said.

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