BUFFALO, NY – Final rules have been released on how millions of dollars will be used to assist those directly impacted by the Tops mass shooting.
After public input just last week, the steering committee who set those final rules made some changes to how funds will be dispersed.
So far, $4.9 million has been raised from the Buffalo Survivors Fund. Advanced payments of $25,000 have been made to some families of victims who were killed and victims who were wounded, have received $10,000 — drawing criticism from some people who say they escaped the mass shooting and can’t work because of the trauma they experienced.
“I’m struggling every day; I have two children that I have to take care of, I have not been able to work,” said Brooklyn Hough, who says she was working at Tops during the mass shooting and hid away from the shooter.
Kishia Douglas says she was checking out at the register and then heard gunshots.
“We should be right at the top with everyone else, I can’t work, he can’t work, she can’t work so how are we supposed to live?” Douglas said.
The committee that established rules for the fund has made a change to its protocol — now allowing people who were injured, but not wounded to get an advanced payment of $3,500. People who are suffering from psychological trauma can also get an advanced payment of the same amount.
There will be a process to validate that these recipients survived the mass shooting. The recipients need to be validated by September 14.
“If they’re an employee, we’ll validate their presence with Tops, if they were a customer or just someone who was in the parking lot, we’ll validate their presence with law enforcement,” said Jeff Dion, the executive director of the National Compassion Fund, which is the administrator of the Buffalo Survivors Fund, “The application is a sworn statement and when people submit that and sign that they sign it under the penalty of perjury and we ask them were you there? Did you experience psychological trauma as a result and based on that and those other confirmations that will validate someone.”
Dion says that confirmation process, which in some cases will require the release of medical records, will be key to make sure there’s no abuse of the money.
“Following the Boston Marathon bombing there were four people who were criminally convicted of defrauding the Boston One Fund of hundreds of thousands of dollars and that’s why it’s important we validate with law enforcement that someone was there,” Dion said.
An online application will be made available several weeks from now — people who feel they’re eligible to receive funds can apply then or possibly seek an advanced payment before that. The Buffalo Survivors Fund will eventually be closed on September 20, with the remaining payments to those directly impacted being made in the fall. Applications to receive funds need to be submitted by this date. The fund will eventually be audited.
Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.