Exclusive: 2015 Suffolk Marathon funds not yet given to veterans groups

MASTIC BEACH (WABC) -- Veterans organizations on Long Island are looking for answers over delayed grant money. The funds were raised during the 2015 Suffolk County Marathon, but they've never been handed over.

It's an Eyewitness News exclusive.

"I've got 95 people volunteered their time, their training, their efforts to do this program," The American Legion's Rev. Fred Miller said. "But to reach vets, we've got to advertise. And to advertise, it costs money."

And that's why Rev. Miller says he really needs the $4,000 that now exists only in a poster check.

"I'm still holding a cardboard check my bank won't take," he said.

It was March of 2016 when the American Legion and 18 other non-profit veterans groups from Suffolk County found out they would be receiving money generated from Suffolk County's first-ever marathon.

The event in September of 2015 raised $160,000 for local veterans, but an an Eyewitness News investigation has found that none of the veterans groups has received its money. One of them is Project 9 Line in Islip, which is waiting on $13,500 to put on free arts programs, like music, yoga and writing, for veterans.

"We're just really happy to get it," Project 9 Line's Patrick Donohue said. "I'm trying to look at it from that point of view. And I do believe they're doing their best to get us the money as fast as possible.

Part of the problem is that the county made the non-profits enter into a contract that required them to spend the money first, and then the county would reimburse them.

"We didn't spend the money because we didn't have it," Rev. Miller said.

Still, many argue that's not good enough.

"This is not information that was provided to everyone," Legislator Kate Browning (D-Mastic) said. "That's generally what's done with regular grant money that's taxpayers dollars. But That was not made clear to any of these people until now, and we're talking well over a year. And now, they're being told there's a change of rules, and that's just not fair."

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone responded to the report with a statement.

"We worked very hard to put on this event to raise money for Suffolk County veterans," it read. "So we share in their frustration, and have now fixed the process so that we now expect all funds to be dispersed by the end of the week."

The 2016 Suffolk County Marathon was held in October, and officials said they have updated the grant process so that veterans groups don't have to enter into a direct contract with the county. Applications will be going out this month.

If you would like to know more about Project 9 Line, visit Project9Line.org. For more information on the Suffolk County American Legion PTSD Committee, contact 631-395-4646.
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