Bill to make VB Tragedy Fund donations tax deductible among those in limbo after special session


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The fallout continues from the General Assembly’s failure to discuss any of the proposed legislation in yesterday’s Special Session on Guns. It was called together by Governor Ralph Northam after a shooter killed 12 and seriously injured four in Building 2 on May 31.

Back in June, the IRS confirmed all gifts to the victims’ families and those injured are tax free for them, but not for the thousands contributing $3 million now in cash and a pledged total of $3.8 million. Each family of the 12 killed, and the four injured, will now get $50,000 each from the tragedy fund. That is up from $25,000 we last reported.

As the raging emotion on guns erupted outside the State Capitolon
Tuesday, the quick vote to adjourn until November left an important piece of legislation involving the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund in limbo. “I’m
ashamed of our legislators, including the ones in Virginia Beach, that they
couldn’t step across party lines to get this done,” says Attorney Jeffrey Breit, who is representing the United Way of South Hampton Roads.

Breit is talking about a Senate and House resolution: The Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund be recognized as performing an essential government service.

“This gives the United Way a governmental relation to the fund,” Breit says and reminds us this connection allows for contributions to be tax deductible. They are now not able to be deducted.

“We are in fact paying for some of the services the government would pay.”

The fund shall fulfill the essential government service of developing a protocol for financially assisting the victims. “We do that. Funeral expenses for example would be covered by worker comp. United Way is covering that. TowneBank is covering that,” Breit added.

“I wish all of these would have been taken up,” says State Senator Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach). The Senate resolution to make the Tragedy Fund Tax deductible is sponsored by DeSteph, who voted to adjourn before debating his own bill.

“We have time to do this before you file your taxes when we go back November 18, and we will push it through then. If we don’t get it through then we will be back up in January, and put in an emergency clause and get it done then … it will happen and we want people to continue giving to help the families and those injured.”

Breit is critical of how all this played out. ‘The failure of the legislature to meet and get this passed has affected donors. Delay is our enemy, and we are trying to get it done.”

10 On Your Side questioned DeSteph about the perceived politics involved in the adjournment. “We never let politics get in the way of policy.”

We reminded him politics did get in the way of policy that would have established the tax-exempt status. “Well a little bit, but we have plenty of time to get this through … and we will get it through.”

Of the 12 families whose loved one was killed, and the four seriously injured, Breit has met with all but four. “They all have amazing stories. I have spouses who have left their job to take care of injured spouse. Worker comp doesn’t cover that, so those are real income needs right now, and I’m trying to help them.”

We spoke with Virginia Beach Delegate Barry Knight, who says his bills and others dealing with tax exempt status, along with $10 million to restore building 2, and $20 million in an interest free loan for Building 2 will go before the Appropriations Committee in August, but a full vote and passage won’t happen until after the November elections.

Here’s the message from both Breit and DeSteph: give all you can. Everyone knows in the end, everything will be settled by tax season in April

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