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Disbursement of donations to Newtown postponed

May 7, 2013

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s attorney general is getting involved in the decision over how to spend money sent to Newtown in the wake of December’s shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation, which is overseeing more than $11 million of that money, postponed public hearings with the victims’ families planned for Tuesday and Wednesday. It will instead meet with Attorney General George Jepsen to discuss the disbursement process, said Dr. Charles Herrick, a member of the foundation’s board of directors.

“It’s going to happen sometime this week, but I can’t say more than that at this point,” Herrick said Tuesday.

Herrick said they planned to announce a new schedule for hearings after meeting with Jepsen.

The foundation had announced last month that it planned an initial disbursement of $7.7 million, to be divided among families of the 26 people killed inside the school, 12 surviving children from the classrooms where people were shot and the two people wounded.

The group had originally planned to give those most affected by the shooting $4 million as an initial payment, but revised that figure upward after families expressed a desire to receive one lump-sum payment rather than have the money disbursed over time, Herrick said last month.

The hearings were designed to help a three-member distribution committee, chaired by retired U.S. District Judge Alan Nevas, determine how much money each family would receive. But some families apparently were still not happy with the arrangement, with some questioning why any money was being withheld from them.

“The attorney general met with various families who lost precious loved ones on Dec. 14 and their representatives on Friday,” Jepsen’s office said in a statement. “As a result of the meeting, and consistent with his responsibilities to oversee charitable activities and fundraising in Connecticut, the attorney general has scheduled a meeting with representatives from the Sandy Hook Community Foundation to discuss issues surrounding the decision to disburse $7.7 million to the families most affected by the tragedy.”

The foundation is being advised by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, an expert in disaster-fund management who handled the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and is currently working on the fund set up to aid victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Feinberg told The Associated Press last month that the hearings are important to the process, allowing families to vent, as well as helping to answer the question of how the money is allocated.

“No one has decided, as far as I know in Newtown, who gets what,” he said. “No one has decided whether the families should get the same amount. ... What about the children who were in the classroom and suffered mental trauma observing all of this? No decision has been made yet.”

The foundation had planned a deliberate process to determine how to spend the remaining $3.3 million in its care — forming committees to explore things such as a permanent memorial to the victims, scholarships for Sandy Hook students and mental-health care for first responders.

Herrick said they also hoped to keep some of the money for a time as an investment tool, keeping in mind that many of the survivors of the massacre are children who may need help in the years to come.

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