Virginia Tech Families to Be Offered Up to $180,000

Kenneth R. Feinberg, administrator of the Virginia Tech memorial fund, said the latest offer is final because there is no more money available.
Kenneth R. Feinberg, administrator of the Virginia Tech memorial fund, said the latest offer is final because there is no more money available. (By Andrea Bruce -- The Washington Post)
By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 16, 2007

RICHMOND, Aug. 15 -- Virginia Tech will offer the families of the 32 students and faculty members slain by Seung Hui Cho a one-time payment of $180,000 from a fund created to receive private donations in the weeks after the April 16 massacre, the administrator of the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund said Wednesday.

The administrator, Kenneth R. Feinberg of Bethesda, said the university plans to distribute the entire $7.1 million fund to the families of those killed and to the 27 people wounded in Norris Hall.

Those who were wounded will receive $40,000 to $90,000 apiece, depending on the severity of their injuries, as well as free tuition at Virginia Tech.

"We are hopeful this effort can continue the healing process for those most grievously touched by the April 16 tragedy," said Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger.

Some slain students' relatives, who plan to meet this weekend, appeared unimpressed by Feinberg's decision on distribution of the fund.

"It was expected. We've got to take a look at it and decide if there is going to be a response or not," said Joseph Samaha of Centreville, whose daughter Reema was killed in Norris Hall.

The announcement is another step in the tense discussions between state officials and some family members over how much money they should receive to compensate them for their losses and cover outstanding bills.

Several relatives of slain and wounded Virginia Tech students, who believe that the school was negligent in its response to the tragedy, have said they think they are entitled to more money, in addition to the disbursements from the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. Some have suggested a taxpayer-financed compensation fund, which Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and Virginia legislators said they will consider.

A publicly financed $7 billion fund for the families of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks paid families an average of $2 million; the injured received almost $400,000 each. The victims and family members took the money in exchange for waiving their right to sue the airline industry or federal, state or local governments.

Feinberg, who also administered the Sept. 11 fund, described the Virginia Tech disbursements as a "gift" from the more than 20,000 individuals and corporations who donated to the fund, which the university established after being flooded with requests from people wanting to help in the days after the shootings.

The fund, which is open until December, accepted donations ranging from $5 sent by an elementary school student to a $1 million contribution from the New York Yankees.

"This is intended to provide financial assistance to the families and students who lost a loved one or who were physically injured on that day," Feinberg said.

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