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Where the money of Butte Strong Fund is going

In the wake of the Camp Fire people from all over the world wanted to help and donate money. So Sierra Nevada Brewery, Aaron Rogers Foundation, and North Valley Community Foundation joined forces to make the Butte Strong Fund. Now some are frustrated saying the millions that have been donated have not been used how it was advertised.

Posted: Nov 7, 2019 9:30 AM
Updated: Nov 8, 2019 9:55 AM

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - In the wake of the Camp Fire, people from all over the world wanted to help and donate money.

So Sierra Nevada Brewery, Aaron Rogers Foundation, and North Valley Community Foundation joined forces to make the Butte Strong Fund.

Now some are frustrated saying the millions that have been donated have not been used how it was advertised. 

Victoria Gann is one of those women, she said she hasn't seen any of the money. 

"It is just hard to watch that money flowing in there and you aren't getting it and soon your family starts thinking you are nuts and everyone not from this area starts thinking you are nuts," said Gann. 

Deb Tastet is another woman who is frustrated about how the money is being spent. 

"I believe the money America sent this area was not meant for a little roundtable group to decide what organizations it goes to, it was meant for the people of this county or the four areas impacted to get them back on their feet," said Tastet.

Victoria Gann and Deb Tastet said that they don't like how North Valley Community Foundation is handing out the money.

"People trusted and a lot of people gave because that was what was advertised and they thought what they thought they were giving to and it didn't go to that," said Gann. 

Tastet added the funds should be to fix any loose end Camp Fire victim needs.

"Whether it is a power pole or a foundation, or septic that a big truck or tree cutting truck broke. The fees, with going and getting your house rebuilt the codes, the rules, the ordinances, they all cost money," said Tastet.

Robin Gregory from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company said they understand why people are frustrated. 

"We absolutely understand that frustration and it is frustrating for us as well, but the scope of this disaster means that no amount of money can make it happen overnight it will be a long road ahead. We want to do it in the right way and the most impactful way so spending that money wisely overtime on projects that are going to have a long impact on the community is our primary goal," said Gregory. 

Gregory said they raised a lot of money but needed help making sure it went to the right places.

"We recognize our limitations and we are not in the business of disaster relief and community rebuilding we recognize our limitations there," said Gregory. 

Gregory added this is why they chose to partner with North Valley Community Foundation.

David Little from North Valley Community Foundation said they were always a hub for philanthropy.

"With the advent of the Camp Fire it changed to almost a disaster relief organization even though we are still too small to be one," said Little. 

Little said they don't have control over all donations.

"We have raised about 70 million dollars total, but we don't have discretion over all of it. Some goes into the Butte Strong Fund, some goes into the Camp Fire Relief Fund, and some are designated for specific purposes by the people who give us those grants," said Little. 

Little added their board does check out organizations before giving them money.

"So the grant applications are vetted extensively before they are made and then after them again. The recipients of the grants are vetted before any of the grants are approved so we make sure they are dealing with Camp Fire survivors," said Little. 

"It seems that when people went to these places to get some financial help most people were told they were out and to check back again," said Gann. "So we haven't really found anybody who actually got assistance from a lot of the groups who were granted money for direct help or direct donations."

Little discussed the reporting process, that goes on afterward. After that grant money is expended, they get a report on how the grant money was used.

"Then put it on your page break it down for everybody to see. I don't want a copy, I want those actual transcripts of the accounting," said Tastet.

Little added they are not available to the public due to sensitive information in them, but they do have outside auditors looking at them, including the State Attorney General's Office.

"The reports include how all the money was spent, sometimes all the way down to the people they were giving money to. I do know on the direct assistance grants, where individuals received money up to $5,000 sometimes $10,000 in some cases every one of those is logged in a central computer database system so everyone knows who and what organizations are getting money," said Little. 

Gregory and Little said while they're doing their best to help people now - they can't forget about the long term goal.

"Some of the long term needs are things that take a lot of time and planning and a lot of money. Things like doing a road assessment for all the roads up there, hiring a City Planner so Paradise and the surrounding communities can be rebuilt in a way that is sustainable toward the long term health of the community, so those are the projects we want to focus on to make sure they don't get lost in the immediate needs," said Gregory. 

"Long term needs aren't something that is going to go away in 6 months or 12 months, this is you know a five year a ten-year problem so we hope to not just spend the money and go away we hope to aid in the recovery effort," said Little. 

Little said the money not being used is in a bank account accruing interest while they figure out what to do with it. 

To see the most recent report of how the money is being used click HERE.

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