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43 Newtown charities report raising $20.4 million

Tuesday - 4/16/2013, 5:18pm  ET

SUSAN HAIGH
Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Forty-three charities that collected funds after the Newtown school shooting have informed Connecticut officials they've so far raised nearly $20.4 million and distributed close to $2.9 million of that money.

The money already distributed has gone to the families of the 26 victims at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, including 20 first graders and six educators, as well as a variety of related causes. The list includes the local police union and fire department, equipment for a faculty room at the new Sandy Hook school, mental health care for first responders and Sandy Hook families, and materials for teachers' classrooms.

State Attorney General George Jepsen and Consumer Protection Department Commissioner William Rubenstein said Tuesday they had identified a total of 69 charities involved with raising money after the Dec. 14 massacre. Each were contacted by letter and asked to respond to a short survey. They were asked about their organization, services and funds, including how much they have collected in donations and pledges, and the purpose behind their charitable efforts.

Jepsen's office plans to follow up with charities that didn't respond.

"This request was an initial step to provide information to the public, Newtown community and other charitable organizations trying to meet the needs of those affected by this tragedy," Jepsen said in a written statement. The information that has been collected is available for the public to review on both the Connecticut Attorney General's and Department of Consumer Protection websites.

Rubenstein said both offices may contact all the charities to ultimately determine how the donations were spent to make sure steps were taken to prevent fraud and misuse. Both offices are asking charities and members of the public to refer names of other organizations collecting contributions for Sandy Hook causes.

The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation, which is handling the largest charitable fund, voted this month to release $4 million from its $11 million account to a distribution committee that has not yet been named. That $4 million is expected to be dispersed directly to the families of the victims, families of the 12 children who escaped from the Dec. 14 massacre and two people who were injured.

Meanwhile, the records released on Tuesday show only $21,000 has been raised so far for a special charitable fund created by the General Assembly in March to help cover the unreimbursed mental health costs, as well as missed days at work, for first responders, educators and other workers traumatized by the school massacre.

As of Tuesday, Linda J. Cimino, director of the Judicial Branch's Office of Victim Services, said she had received 27 applications from workers. Of those, 10 applicants revealed they were seeking reimbursement for missed wages or mental health counseling.

Back in March, House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, said several hundred thousand dollars had been pledged to the privately funded account by various corporations.


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