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Suffolk County Marathon hasn’t paid veterans groups yet

Frederick Miller, chairman of the PTSD committee for

Frederick Miller, chairman of the PTSD committee for the Suffolk County American Legion, holds oversized cardboard check for $4,000 from the Suffolk County Marathon, but said he still hasn't received the actual payment. None of the 19 veterans groups awarded proceeds from the marathon have received payment, despite the cardboard checks' distribution in March. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Almost 10 months after presenting giant cardboard checks to veterans groups, Suffolk County hasn’t paid any of the 19 nonprofits from proceeds of the 2015 Suffolk County Marathon.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone organized the inaugural marathon to be run in September 2015, with profits going to veterans groups.

The county says it has held onto the $160,000 to make sure the groups comply with county contracting rules.

Veterans organizations say the delay has hampered their ability to provide services.

“I feel extremely disappointed in the county,” said Fred Miller, chairman of the Suffolk County American Legion’s post-traumatic stress disorder committee. Miller was handed the $4,000 ceremonial check for peer-to-peer suicide prevention at a March 24 news conference at the county’s H. Lee Dennison Building and has been driving around with it in his back seat ever since. “It’s a bad reminder to me,” he said.

John Caldarelli of Northport said the $2,500 grant to Missing in America Project, would help the nonprofit in its mission providing burials for “abandoned” veterans with full military honors.

“It has been an extended time,” said Caldarelli, a representative with the group. “I think they’re new to this.”

The county hopes to cut checks as soon as Friday after hearing complaints from veterans organizations, said Ryan McGarry, a county executive assistant who oversaw the 2015 and 2016 marathons. “We’re trying to expedite this process to the greatest extent possible,” he said.

County spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said the March ceremony “was a way to ensure all the organizations were aware of the funds they would receive.”

One obstacle is that the county typically requires nonprofits to spend the money first and then get reimbursed after providing the county with receipts. Some of the smaller veterans groups, like Miller’s, said they scrounge for small donations whenever they get them and couldn’t conduct programs until they had the money in hand.

McGarry said the county would now waive that requirement after groups sign a one-page amendment to contracts.

Some legislators said the race — two months before Bellone’s re-election — was rushed without a good plan to distribute the money to veterans groups.

Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) said, “We’re talking well over a year” since the race was run. “These are nonprofits, some with not a lot of money, that are basically dependent on the money the county said they were going to get.”

In December 2015, the county set up a committee to assess grant applications and make recommendations to the county legislature. The legislature unanimously approved the list of contract recipients in March.

Proceeds from the 2016 Suffolk Marathon and future races will be distributed by the Recreation and Economic Development Corporation of Suffolk County, created to operate the Marathon, McGarry said. Applications for grants from the 2016 marathon will be released this month.

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