VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — After the May 31 tragedy, early the next morning the City of Virginia Beach reached out to The United Way of South Hampton Roads to set up a victims fund for their 11 beloved employees and a well known contractor gunned down in the mass shooting in Building 2.
By 10:30 that Saturday morning, the United Way was operating the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund.
“The first thing we are doing is making sure every funeral expense is paid so no family will have to touch that,” says Carol McCormack, the United Way of South Hampton Roads’ president and CEO. She credits TowneBank for a $500,000 gift to get that done.
Each family of the 12 killed that horrific day and the 4 seriously injured will then get an initial payment of $25,000, and can get it within a week after establishing contact with The United Way. There will be much more money distributed down the road.
“The complicated thing for my job is trying to put a value on life and trying to listen to the families and address the needs,” says local attorney and victims’ advocate Jeffrey Breit. All of the families must meet with Breit, who has volunteered to walk all 16 families through the process of getting contributions until they are gone.
“I am doing my very best to weigh all the different things that happened in my experience with workers comp cases, wrongful death benefits cases, life insurance cases, and I can tell you some of the needs of some of these families is real,” Breit adds.
How was the number of $25,000 per family reached?
“We wanted to get out as much money as we could without doing any analysis of need,” Breit said. “We needed to get money to the families because they have immediate and urgent needs.”
However, Breit points out this is a “needs based” fund. Not everyone gets the same amount of money. “My job is to get money where the crisis can be helped the most, and obviously a man with three young children needs help. People with catastrophic injuries need help.”
Breit will make recommendations to the United Way Board, which has “full discretion” on where the funds go. Every penny donated will go to the families, and there are oversight audits. “We have software that tracks every donation that comes through our door, and we will be able to track it for two years to tell you how much a walk generated for the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund,” McCormack adds.
Here is an important tax point: The IRS questions small groups getting donations like in this case, but a legislative fix could be coming.
Breit is in touch with the IRS, letting them know this could possibly happen in the July 9 special legislative session in Richmond on guns. Breit adds, “The IRS, as long as there is legislative language, can fix the problem itself. That is what they did for Virginia Tech, and we have a legislative bill from Congress and we are working on that for this bill.”
The United Way and Jeffrey Breit are impacted like we all are by the May 31 tragedy. Breit’s appeal is this: “I want Virginia to stand as proud as it can to be Virginia Beach Strong, and donate as much as they can to these families. Give a $100. A $100 to these families is important. A $100 to Virginia Beach families over the course of the summer doesn’t make a bit of difference, but it means a lot to these families who have suffered too much.”
Breit’s already met with some families, and his goal is in the end to have at least $5 million contributed to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund. The United Way urges you to contact them before holding a fundraising event for the victims. Click here to make a contribution to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund.