The families of Uvalde need help; donations take months to be delivered

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A young boy walks past a makeshift memorial honoring those recently killed at Robb Elementary School, Tuesday, July 12, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. A Texas lawmaker says surveillance video of the school hallway where police waited for a gunman to open fire in a fourth grade classroom will be shown to residents of Uvalde this weekend. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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Jessica Treviño’s 11-year-old daughter was attending Robb Elementary School on May 24 when a gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers. She was not physically injured. But in the nearly two months that followed, she suffered from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder – conditions that required up to $1,500 a week in physical and emotional care.

The Treviños are currently entitled to a portion of the millions of dollars that have been raised to help victims and survivors of the shootings – but they haven’t seen any of it yet. These funds normally take months to administer and distribute. However, this reality has not been effectively communicated to the families who desperately need help now.

At a crowded city council meeting in Uvalde on Tuesday, several people shouted questions from their seats about why financial aid seemed to be taking so long. City leaders offered little clarity – and seemed equally confused.

“These families cannot begin to heal unless they have the time to grieve without financial worry,” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin and State Senator Roland Gutierrez said in a letter sent last week. last week to Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The mayor and lawmaker said they had both received “numerous disturbing reports” of people receiving insufficient financial resources outside of a two-week bereavement allowance. They cited a family who struggled to keep the lights on while a child was hospitalized.

At least $14 million has been raised through private and corporate donations for families affected by the shooting. All have been combined into the Uvalde Together We Rise fund, which will be administered by a local steering committee with advice from national experts.

But creating a plan to ensure funds are distributed fairly and transparently takes time — usually months, noted Jeffery Dion, executive director of the National Compassion Fund. The nonprofit has helped distribute more than $105 million in donations to those affected by 23 other high-loss incidents since 2014. Among them: mass shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida; in 2016; at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018; and at a Walmart in El Paso in 2019. In each of these cases, the donations took several months to reach the victims.

“It’s a giveaway, so there’s no right or wrong answer, but the most important thing is that it’s the local answer,” Dion said, adding that each local steering committee ultimately has the final say on the distribution plan.

Currently, the funds are expected to be distributed to families starting Nov. 21, according to Mickey Gerdes, a local lawyer who chairs Uvalde’s committee responsible for allocating donations. Gerdes said a draft distribution plan is currently available to the community and will be finalized after public input.

In the meantime, the Treviños and many others have launched GoFundMe pages and several donors and organizations have stepped in to provide immediate financial assistance.

The Uvalde Volunteer Fire Department wrote checks directly to 15 families of the injured, according to department chairman Patrick Williams. He said the organization initially received $21,000 through an annual fundraiser, which it decided to dedicate to victims, and $49,000 through a related GoFundMe page, which closed on June 1.

“At no point should we be talking about money and the loss of children’s lives in the same sentence, but here we are and it needs to be talked about,” Williams said, noting that the money her department has collected helps families. injured people who have had to miss work and are struggling with medical and living expenses.

“It showed me the worst in man and the best in man,” Williams said.

The Treviño family’s GoFundMe page has raised over $47,000. But, Jessica Treviño said traveling to San Antonio once a week for treatment while supporting her three other children remains a financial challenge for her and her husband.

“I also think that a lot of mental illnesses are pushed aside because of families like mine who don’t have any financial support,” Treviño said.

According to Dion, distributing the $14 million available through the other sources takes so long because each request must be vetted through medical and legal records. He said families also need time to consult with pro bono lawyers who can advise them on how best to transfer the funds – especially to minors – in accordance with local laws and without losing other public benefits. that they might already receive.

Applications to receive funds will be available online between September 8 and October 6. According to the current draft of the distribution plan, those eligible include the legal heirs of the deceased, those who were physically injured or suffered psychological trauma, and students and staff who were present at the school when the shooting. took place.

About James K. Bonnette

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