Uvalde shooting victims aren’t getting compensated from state fund as intended, officials say

Hundreds of flowers, toys and candles surround crosses honoring the 21 victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. (Evan L'Roy For The Texas Tribune, Evan L'Roy For The Texas Tribune)

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State Sen. Roland Gutierrez and Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said Monday that families of the Uvalde shooting victims are experiencing delays in getting compensation benefits from the state and that the compensation has been insufficient.

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Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde, and McLaughlin are calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to remove Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee from overseeing victims’ services and to bring in the Texas Division of Emergency Management instead.

Gutierrez and McLaughlin penned a letter to the governor saying that one Uvalde family was at risk of having the power cut off in their home while their daughter was in the hospital. Other families have been offered compensation of two weeks’ pay, which Gutierrez and McLaughlin called “meager.”

“These families cannot begin to heal unless they are given time to grieve free from financial worry. There is no worse pain imaginable than losing a child. This pain is made all the more severe because of the way these children were killed and injured,” Gutierrez wrote in a statement. “In short, the State of Texas ought to use every available resource in law to make these families whole.”

Local and state officials opened the Uvalde Together Resiliency Center in June to provide long-term support services to Uvalde residents after a gunman killed 19 children and two educators at Robb Elementary on May 24. Resources offered at the center include crisis counseling, behavioral health care and child care services for survivors and first responders.

The governor’s public safety office made an initial $5 million investment to establish the center. It’s unclear how much the state has allocated for victims’ compensation benefits. In announcing the center’s opening, Abbott said the local district attorney would take the initial lead on services, coordinating efforts between local support organizations and state agencies.

The district attorney’s office is also handling one of the investigations into the shooting. Busbee told ABC News last week that she has been meeting with victims’ families to provide updates about the investigation and “make sure that they’re getting the resources that they need.” Busbee did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Gutierrez and McLaughlin calling for her replacement.

McLaughlin and Gutierrez wrote in their letter that the district’s office is neither equipped nor staffed to provide adequate services.

The two previously criticized the state and the Uvalde County district attorney’s office for their handling of the response to the shooting. McLaughlin has accused the state of selectively releasing records that scapegoat local police and has said the district attorney’s office has left Uvalde city officials out of briefings about the investigation.

Gutierrez is suing the Department of Public Safety for withholding records related to the shooting. The Democratic state senator also said it was a “slap in the face” to be left out of the Legislature’s special committee to investigate the Uvalde shooting.

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