Two Funds, Two Different Approaches

Funds will soon be distributed to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Money in the largest Newtown fund remains on hold.

By Debra Bogstie
|  Friday, May 17, 2013  |  Updated 10:13 AM EDT
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Two Funds, Two Different Approaches

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Memorials to Sandy Hook and the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

New England has been hit by two unthinkable tragedies in just four months: the Newtown school shootings and the Boston Marathon bombings.

Millions have been raised for the victims of both. However, unlike the families affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, survivors of the Boston bombings will soon be collecting donations.

"It's heartbreaking when you look at the two cases. You've got the best case scenario and you've got the worst case scenario," said Caryn Kaufman, who represents families affected by tragedies around the country.

Kaufman is advocating for a National Compassion Fund so there's no question post-tragedy donations would go directly to the victims.

According to Kaufman,  Boston got it right by creating "One Fund Boston" which is raising money solely for victims of the terror attack and has used an independent administrator, attorney Kenneth Feinberg, from the start. Feinberg helped distribute funds after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado, the Virginia Tech shootings, and other tragedies.

On the one-month anniversary of the attack, the organization released its detailed distribution criteria and also announced that the $30 million raised will be handed out at the end of June.

In comparison, Newtown's largest fund, which was launched by the United Way and is now controlled by the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation, plans to distribute just 70 percent of its $11 million to the families of the 26 people who died, the families of the 12 students who survived the shooting, and the two educators who were injured.

There's still no criteria set for handing the money out and there is no deadline.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen has intervened on behalf of upset families and declined to comment.

"We believe that that's re-victimizing. You're asking people who are in the depths of grief to have to ask for money that was given to them as a gift and that's not right," said Kaufman.

The foundation says it has met with the attorney general but declined further comment.

In the past, the United Way has pointed out the fund was established not only for the victims, but also to address ongoing community needs.

Quinnipiac University business professor David Cadden says transparency is crucial for any charity.

"You have a small community so in shock that they basically didn't think ahead of some of the procedures they should have put in place fairly early on," said Cadden.

In April, the foundation created a distribution committee to figure out how to split up the funds. Public hearings that were canceled earlier this month have not been rescheduled.

The foundation is also now using Attorney Feinberg as a consultant, after town leaders decided against using him to oversee the fund immediately after the tragedy.

Cadden and others feel the ongoing fight for funds raised on behalf of the Newtown victims is adding to the tragedy.

"They've gone through enough of a horror. They need to have some extent of closure at least on this particular issue," said Cadden.

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