BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Residents, survivors and victims’ families gathered on Thursday at City Honors High School to discuss what should be done with the more than $4.7 million raised to help loved ones and survivors. A committee of local leaders and members of the National Compassion Fund created a list of protocols, outlining how the money would be distributed.
“It’s a delicate balancing act to include everybody who was directly impacted, but not make it so big,” Jeff Dion, executive director of the National Compassion Fund, said.
The money will be distributed based on a tiered system with the largest portion to include families of the tne victims who were killed.
That tier is followed by people who were injured, people who were at Tops or in the parking lot at the time of the attack and Jefferson Avenue Tops employees who were not working at the time of the mass shooting.
A source tells News 4 they are concerned the money is being distributed to Tops employees who were employed by the company at the time of the shooting, but were not working that day. They feel the grocery store chain is using donations to take place of the corporate responsibility to their workforce.
View the first protocol draft below:
Advocates for traumatized shopper and employees say all tiers should receive equal shares of the money raised.
“All of the Black leaders in Buffalo were tapped to be on this board, but who is out there organizing with the individuals who were impacted that day,” community advocate Myles Carter said.
The National Compassion Fund has managed similar funds for other mass casualties, including the Pulse Night Club Shooting in Orlando, Fla. One of the Buffalo 5/14 Survivor’s Fund committee members is Tiara Parker, who was shot at the nightclub in 2016. She responded to Carter.
“I can also tell you, teach you too how to advocate for those victims that you’re right they can’t get out of the house. They can’t do this. I can teach you that as well because that is what I do when I leave here,” Parker said.
Many people at the meeting were concerned about receiving large sums of money if they are enrolled in social benefits like Medicaid or Medicare.
“Any money given to these people, I believe should not be allotted for social services to take. Is that possible?” Brian Talley, brother-in-law to Geraldine Talley, questioned.
Dion responded by saying the fund is getting legal guidance so that people who are qualified to receive part of the money raised can do so without losing those social benefits. There will be assistance with this for specific families later in the process.
Victims, families and those traumatized by the event can apply to receive part of the almost $5 million. They must prove that they fall within one of the outlined categories above. This application process is slated to open August 16 and close September 14. Money will then be distributed after that.
Other speakers at the meeting shared their stories of trauma and grief, detailing what it was like to be in that store on May 14. Julie Harwell had her dream job prior to the shooting, but lost it because she could not go back to work. She was in the store with her young daughter at the time of the attack.
“I still cannot sleep at night. I still can’t go back to work. I’m filling out applications right now yes because I have to provide for my family because I have no money,” Harwell said.
To view application information, the full list of protocols or to donate, visit The Compassion Fund here.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.