By Richard Weizel
NEWTOWN, Connecticut (Reuters) - The families of the 20 children and six adults who were killed when a gunman opened fire at a Connecticut elementary school in December should each get $281,000 from donations that poured in after the shooting, a committee recommended on Thursday.
The families of the 12 children who witnessed and survived the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School would each get $20,000 and two teachers who were injured would get a combined $150,000.
The remaining $3.7 million of the $11.4 million in donations raised with the help of the United Way charity would be set aside as a community fund, according to the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation, which is overseeing the donations. The committee gave no details on how the money in the community fund would be used.
The committee will make a final decision by July 15.
Advising the committee was Kenneth Feinberg, an attorney who also oversaw compensation for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado, and the Boston Marathon bombing.
"Solomon himself could not distribute this money in a fashion that everyone would find fair," he told the more than 50 gathered at a public meeting in Newtown on Thursday evening. "Money is a pretty poor substitute for loss of life."
Indeed, many voiced frustration that the entire sum had not been given to families and survivors.
"The public gave money after seeing the faces of those precious children and brave school staff who were senselessly murdered on December 14," said Caryn Kaufman, who described herself as an advocate for victims of violence. "The public intent was clear - to help ease the burden of those families who lost the most that day. Period."
David Lewis, whose grandson, Jesse, was among the slain children, said he was surprised that so much money would go into a community fund.
"If a person gives a donation, I think they expect the money to go directly to the victims," Lewis said.
Robert Accomando, a Newtown resident, also faulted the decision to create a community fund. As the director of a separate effort, the My Sandy Hook Family Fund, he said he had ensured that all of the $1.6 million raised went to the 26 families.
The committee is made up of retired federal Judge Alan Nevas, and two Newtown residents, John Woodall and Joe Smialowski.
"We had absolutely no say in the amount decided upon for the victims. That was strictly decided by the board who appointed us, and our only charge was to find a protocol that we deemed fair," Nevas said.
(Reporting by Richard Weizel; Editing by Edith Honan, Phil Berlowitz and Lisa Shumkaer)