The families of the victims of the Aurora, Colo., shooting massacre spoke out on Tuesday about their discontentment with the way a relief fund set up to help them is being managed.
Tom Teves, a spokesperson for the victims' families, lost his 24-year-old son, Alex, when alleged gunman James Holmes went on a shooting rampage at an Aurora movie theater on July 20, resulting in the death of 12 people and the wounding of 58 others.
Teves says the organization managing the $5 million donated to the Aurora Victim Relief Fund, the Community First Foundation, has offered little financial assistance to the victims' families and gave money to other nonprofits before giving it directly to the families themselves.
"We're certain that everyone who donated their hard-earned wages intended for 100 percent of the donations to go directly to the victims," said Teves, according to The New York Times. "Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case."
Earlier this month, the 7/20 Recovery Committee, a group of community leaders formed to make recommendations about how donated funds, goods and services should be allocated, announced that it distributed $350,000 among the 70 victims of the shooting – that's $5,000 a piece – through the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA) in order to help the families with "immediate financial needs."
"Victims may have financial needs far greater than this initial monetary distribution, and this is one of many steps in providing support as victims continue to move through the healing process," the Community First Foundation said in a statement.
But family members complain that the money isn't coming fast enough, and that they have little to no say in deciding how the money will be used. Teves said victims of the shooting "have no voice at all" when it comes to the distribution of the donated funds, the Times reports, and some families are concerned they won't receive any more than the $5,000 check they've already received.
Though not given directly to the families, $100,000 has also been given to 10 local nonprofit organizations that offer a variety of services to help the victims and their families.
Cheryl Haggstrom, executive vice president of Community First Foundation, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that an upcoming 7/20 Recovery Committee meeting on Friday will involve discussions on how the organizations handling the money can better take into consideration the opinions of the victims and their families.
"Yes, we do welcome their input ... We are just working on the best process to do that," she said.
Haggstrom said she cannot speculate as to why the victims' families felt the need to speak publicly about the way the relief fund has been managed, although she did offer some of her own thoughts on the situation.
"I think that these people have been through a terrible crisis. I think that the system is difficult to figure out how to work with it, because there are many, many access points," she commented. She also said a major component in helping these families is "making sure that they're aware of what's available to them and how to get access to those services."