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Virginia Tech to offer $7.5m to massacre victims, families

RICHMOND -- Virginia Tech will offer the families of the 32 students and faculty members slain by Seung-Hui Cho a one-time payment of up to $180,000 from a fund used to solicit private donations in the weeks following the April 16 massacre, the administrator of the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund announced yesterday.

Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator, said the university plans to distribute all of the $7.5 million fund to the families of those killed as well as to the more than two dozen people injured during the shootings.

Those injured in Norris Hall will receive $40,000 to $90,000 apiece, depending on the severity of their injuries.

"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.

Vincent Bove, a spokesman for seven of the families, said the money "will help the families get back on track."

But Bove cautioned that the relatives of the victims will keep up their criticism of how Virginia Tech officials responded to the shooting and continue to explore ways to make the university accountable.

"They want to remain focused on what happened, why it happened," said Bove, a security expert. "It was preventable and a lack of leadership allowed this to happen."

Feinberg's announcement capped weeks of debate and discussions with family members over the best way to distribute the money in the fund, which the university set up to collect unsolicited donations from corporations, alumni, and citizens.

In the weeks following the shooting, the university had planned to use at least half of the fund to create 32 scholarships in honor of each of the victims. Some relatives of the victims protested, saying the money in the fund should be used to help meet their financial needs.

Virginia Tech then hired Feinberg, who drew up plans to offer the victims of those killed $150,000 and the injured $25,000 to $75,000.

Some of the families also rejected that offer.

Feinberg, who was the administrator of the $7 billion Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund, said yesterday that the latest offer is final because there is no more money available in the fund. In fact, the fund will have a $200,000 deficit unless more contributions are received.

Under the plan, the families of those killed can accept a $180,00 cash payment or request that some of the money be used to fund an endowed scholarship in honor of the victim.

The injured students and faculty members who were hospitalized for 10 days or more will be offered $90,000 and free tuition for their remaining years at Virginia Tech. Those hospitalized for 3 to 9 days will receive $40,000, plus free tuition.

Uninjured students who were in Norris Hall where the shootings took place will be offered free tuition for their remaining years at Virginia Tech.

 COMPLETE COVERAGE: Tragedy in Virginia