'Unmet needs' committee to distribute $3.6 million in donations in West

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by TODD UNGER

Bio | Email | Follow: @toddWFAA8

WFAA

Posted on October 3, 2013 at 6:25 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 3 at 11:25 PM

WEST, Texas -- Details emerged Thursday on how nearly $3.6 million in private donations will be dished out to victims of the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion.

The West Long-Term Recovery Center will handle the donations.

A 15-person "unmet needs" committee will recommend on a case-by-case basis which of the 500-plus applicants should get funds, and when.

That process will being early next week, with 20 families expected to receive a payout within the next couple of weeks.

"We're here and we hope to help as many as possible," said executive director Karen Bernsen.

But some families continue to have questions.

News 8 spoke with Elizabeth Maler earlier in the week.

Her property of nearly 40 years was under-insured, and she is hoping for partial help from private funds.

"I still have heard nothing," she said.

Maler went to the announcement on Thursday, and said she felt a little better about what she heard from board members overseeing the money. But she wonders how members of the "unmet" needs committee were selected.

News 8 asked that very question.

"We looked at people not directly effected, because obviously, there could be a conflict of interest there," Bernsen said.

The executive director added that each case would be presented anonymously to the committee.

Mayor Tommy Muska said earlier in the week he was aware of some community complaints, but stressed it took months for the center to receive a proper 501(c)(3) designation, and iron out other logistical issues.

"It's a relief and it takes time to do it right," he said.

The money in question doesn't include FEMA or other government relief, insurance payouts, or church donations.

The center said it hopes to stretch the money as long as possible.

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com

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