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Payouts could be delayed until 2014 for hotshot families

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PRESCOTT, AZ (CBS5) -

Three charities raised around $8 million they said would 'go directly to the families of those 19 firefighters' who died fighting a wildfire on Yarnell Hill in late June.

In late August, those 19 families have only seen a quarter of those donations.

"We will possibly disburse the money in December, but I think it could go into 2014," Phoenix firefighter Russ Kirk said.

Kirk is one of five serving on a board created by two of the charities: the United Phoenix Firefighters Association and the Prescott Firefighters Charity. Combined, the two charities have raised nearly $5 million in donations. 

"When these funds were donated we were facing a maze of tax complexity," certified public accountant Matt Holdsworth said.

Holdsworth says since the federal government denied Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's request to declare the fire a national emergency, donations lost their tax-exempt status. Accountants like himself are now working with Kenneth Feinberg.

Feinberg was appointed Special Master of the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund as well as administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund. Feinberg has also played a role in administering payments to the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the Aurora Victim Relief Fund and served as an advisor to The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation.

Feinberg's latest task is assisting these charities in distributing donations to the Granite Mountain Hotshot families. Each family, with different needs.

Once accountants, attorneys and the board make the donations tax-exempt, they will then need to figure out how to distribute that money.

"We're grateful for everything," Juliann Ashcraft said. "Regardless of the distribution every penny, we're grateful for everything."

Ashcraft's husband, Andrew, was one of the 19 Granite Mountain hotshots who died fighting the Yarnell Hill wildfire. Each of the charities have been working closely with Ashcraft and the other families to determine how to split the donations.

"That's the biggest problem right now," chairwoman of Prescott Firefighter's Charities, Billie Denike said.

Most of the $8 million donated sits in an account at a Prescott bank, untouched by the families that money was meant for. However, each charity claims every penny will get to those families eventually.

The 100 Club has already begun dispersing donations, cutting checks to those families for funeral expenses, bills and debt.

For more on this story and other stories around Arizona from this author, follow Shawn Kline on Facebook andTwitter.

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