The distribution of tens of millions of dollars in donations that poured in after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, has led to tension among residents of the town and, according to some advocates, exacerbated the trauma experienced by many families, the reports.
At least seventy-seven charities created in the aftermath of the shooting — ranging from small groups focused on individual families to subsidiaries of national organizations — have received funds, and the crux of the debate concerns whether those funds should be reserved for the victims' families or also used to address issues in the broader community.
The , which was created by the and Newtown Savings Bank, received the largest number of donations in the days and weeks after the shooting. Caryn Kaufman, a public relations consultant who volunteered services for the , told the Huffington Post that "[t]he perception of the United Way fund in particular was that they were going to give the money to the families." But instead, "the tiny, tiny print gave [the foundation] the latitude to be able to decide how much to give to the families." It didn't help, said Kaufman, that the United Way's distribution of the funds was "a messy, public process that re-victimized families who had already lost so much."
Of the $12 million collected by the foundation, $7.7 million has been distributed to the families of the twenty children and six educators who were killed, as well as injured teachers and surviving children. The foundation has spent about $222,100 of the remaining funds on mental health treatment and community programs, while also supporting services aimed at the broader community, including mental health programs for youth and first aid training for all teachers in the school district. "We are trying very hard to help people understand that there are multiple impacted groups and a tremendous amount of suffering," said executive director Jennifer Barahona. "It's one of those situations where no matter what decision you make, you will have someone who doesn't like it, or who is angry with it, or who is unhappy. That’s just the nature of the business."
E. Patricia Llodra, first selectman of Newtown, told the Huffington Post that when funds came into the charities, "there was no established process to get those funds to the families of the victims and that caused confusion....We need to be sure there is a process that is established, that is transparent, that is effective, and that is timely."