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Dilemma in Newtown, Conn., familiar to OKC officials

by Ray Carter Modified: July 6, 2013 at 9:30 am •  Published: July 6, 2013

Those affected by the Newtown, Conn., shootings are facing a dilemma familiar to those impacted by the Oklahoma City bombing: How should officials distribute millions donated to support survivors and the community?

A Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation fund contains $11.4 million. More than 70 funds in Newtown have raised more than $21 million total.

Now officials must decide who benefits from those donations. Should families of the 20 first-graders and six educators killed get most of the money? Or do children who survived, who may need years of therapy, deserve the lion’s share? Should families of the adults killed get more since they lost a breadwinner whose income cannot otherwise be replaced?

Those questions are familiar to Oklahoma City Community Foundation officials, who faced similar quandaries when determining how to distribute Murrah bombing disaster relief funds. More than 1,000 survivors and victim’s children have received $11.2 million in assistance, and money remains available for victims’ continuing long-term needs.

Yet some have criticized the foundation, demanding an immediate payout of all remaining money. That plan could leave many bombing survivors, who continue to require mental health treatment, without the long-term ability to pay for those services.

In Newtown, some advocate creation of a national victims’ “compassion fund” that would receive any money donated in response to all future tragedies with that cash then sent directly to those most affected.

Removing fund oversight from communities directly impacted by tragedy seems likely to amplify controversy, not reduce it. Debate over funding priorities will remain constant. As the Oklahoma City Community Foundation has found, no payout plan will ever be embraced by all.

by Ray Carter
Editorial Writer
Ray Carter joined The Oklahoman in May 2012 after serving as Media Director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives for over seven years. A native of Oklahoma, Carter has worked in the newspaper and public relations businesses since 1998.
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