A postal worker was told by his employers to return nearly $40,000 he collected for Mike Martinez, a co-worker who was seriously injured while delivering mail in North Babylon, according to Martinez.
Martinez, 40, of Bayport, was struck by a car while working his route on April 11. Martinez said his right leg was severed, his left leg badly injured and his arm broken. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital and is recuperating at an Oakdale rehabilitation center, he said.
His doctors expect him to remain in rehab for another two or three months, and he will need a prosthetic leg, according to his wife, Jessica Martinez.
Days after the accident, Martinez said a co-worker started a GoFundMe account to help his family handle expenses. Over the course of a couple weeks, about $36,000 was collected via the online fundraising tool, Martinez said.
In May, U.S. Postal Service representatives met with the employee who set up the fund and told him that because he was a federal employee he was not allowed to solicit donations.
Christine Dugas USPS spokeswoman said the employee was advised he should not have been involved in the fundraising; and that Martinez was prohibited from accepting cash gifts “in any amount, and any other gifts that exceed $20.”
The law applies to all government employees and is not a Postal Service policy, she said.
All of the money was returned in early May, Martinez said.
“Of course we’re disappointed, but unfortunately because I’m a federal employee I have to abide by the rules,” Martinez said, adding that he felt “no ill will” toward the USPS.
Martinez’s brother, James Martinez, said he started another account May 9 to benefit Martinez’s wife and two teenage daughters. About $9,400 was collected through that account. USPS declined to comment on the family’s fundraiser.
Martinez’s medical bills have been covered by his employer and he has been provided compensation, but the family is still concerned about future expenses should Martinez remain out of work. They have taken out loans to help cover expenses for their daughter Mikayla, 17, who will be attending SUNY New Paltz in the fall and are helping another daughter, Brianna, 18, finish cosmetology school, according to Jessica Martinez, 38, a medical biller at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital.
A fundraiser for Martinez’s daughters will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Irish Times in Holbrook, Jessica Martinez said.
“It’s tough, but we take it day by day,” she said. “We’re all very positive and just doing whatever we can to help get him home to us.”