A CharityWatch member recently forwarded us a solicitation from the American Federation of Police & Concerned Citizens (AFPCC). The letter seeks contributions for the local "Police Family Survivors Fund" to provide emergency financial assistance, grief counseling grants, and educational scholarships. AFPCC says, "we give the families of fallen police officers across the country the help they need."
What the AFPCC solicitation does not mention is the numerous federal, state, and local government programs that already provide assistance to eligible families of fallen police officers. As of 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice Public Safety Officers Benefits Program provides a death benefit of $333,604 to the eligible survivors of each law enforcement official killed in the line of duty. There are also separate monthly and one-time benefits available through the Social Security Administration, the amounts for which vary from case to case. Additionally, state and federal laws are setup to protect the survivors’ rights to pension, health insurance, and workers compensation benefits.
In addition to federal benefits that may be available, government benefits and other programs exist on the state and local level, though they vary depending on location and the total payment amounts can differ significantly. For example, the AFPCC solicitation forwarded to CharityWatch was seeking funding for surviving families in Dale County, Alabama yet did not mention that the Alabama State Board of Adjustment adds a one-time death benefit of $100,000 to the federal benefit (for a total of $433,604 in federal and state government benefits). In comparison, the state of Illinois provides an additional one-time benefit of $320,165 (for a federal and state total of $653,769), and other states provide varying amounts as an additional lump sum benefit. Rather than a standard payment amount to supplement the $333,604 federal benefit, some states base their additional benefits on a percentage of the fallen officer’s salary while other states don’t provide any state benefit at all. Other providers also may fund varying amounts of additional benefits depending on the state, such as in Alabama with the Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Fund and Alabama Peace Officers’ Annuity and Benefit Fund, for example. Federal and state programs also may give education assistance as part of the survivor benefits. The Alabama Commission on Higher Education, for example, offers tuition and textbook costs at qualified state colleges and universities to eligible dependent children of officers killed in the line of duty.
Further, many local and national police-related organizations such as charities, fraternal groups, and unions offer the families of fallen police financial assistance, help with burial costs, and support groups. Donors need to be aware that these programs complement rather than replace the far larger government assistance programs and can be relatively insignificant in dollar value. As one such organization, AFPCC gave out to all of its aid recipients in its fiscal year 2013 only $292,913 in total “grants and other assistance to individuals,” according to its tax filing. This aggregate value of assistance provided by AFPCC in 2013 is over $40,000 less than the amount in federal death benefits alone received by just one fallen officer’s family. Further showing how AFPCC’s assistance provided in 2013 was dwarfed by the existing federal and state benefit programs, the average amount AFPCC gave to 153 recipients for “Family Emergency Assistance” was only $620 per family, and the average amount for the 11,943 recipients of its “Awards & Gifts” assistance was an embarrassingly low $4 per recipient.
Donors should be cautious about charities soliciting for programs to provide cash benefits that already are available from federal, state, and local governments. The AFPCC solicitation makes no mention whatsoever of these benefit programs, nor does it include an explanation of how its programs enhance or improve upon other existing programs. This glaring omission – combined with AFPCC’s “F” rating for putting only 25% of its cash budget towards programs and spending $68 to raise every $100 – ought to raise eyebrows for donors.