Norfolk Southern has made another $1.1 million in cash donations to East Palestine, Ohio as the community recovers from the train derailment that sparked a fire and sent hazardous chemicals into the air and water.
The railroad company said it donated $300,000 to the East Palestine City School District and $825,000 to the East Palestine fire department.
“Today’s donations to East Palestine elementary, middle, and high schools and to the Village of East Palestine Fire Department bring the company’s financial commitment to East Palestine to nearly $8 million, with more to come,” the company said in a statement.
The donation to the school district will help cover revenue that the district and neighboring businesses lost when athletic events were canceled following the Feb. 3 derailment, which forced residents to flee their homes.
Athletic teams from neighboring towns forfeited games scheduled to be hosted by East Palestine, according to the Norfolk Southern NSC, +0.41% statement. East Palestine is a town of about 5,000 people near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.
The $825,000 for the fire department will reimburse the agency for equipment used in responding to the derailment. The school district and the fire department did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Some East Palestine locals have turned to GoFundMe for help. One man who says he is the father of an East Palestine High School senior is trying to raise $15,000 in part to make up losses from school-related fundraising events that were canceled after the derailment. Normally those fundraisers would have helped pay for student activities like end-of-season banquets and prom, according to the GoFundMe page.
“I am asking for your donations today to give these kids hope and to continue ‘being kids’ and to enjoy the events that other classes and teams have done in the past,” the page states.
Norfolk Southern’s latest donations come as the National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report that said there was no indication the train’s operators did anything wrong in the lead-up to the derailment, the Associated Press reported.
East Palestine hosted visits from former president and 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg this week. Trump slammed the Biden administration’s response to the disaster, and so has East Palestine mayor Trent Conaway.
NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy criticized the political disputes about the disaster, the Associated Press reported. “Enough with the politics. I don’t understand why this has gotten so political,” Homendy said at a briefing in Washington, D.C. “This is a community that is suffering. This is not about politics. This is about addressing their needs, their concerns.”
Homendy said her agency had talked to residents who have suffered negative health effects, had pets who have died, and have seen their homes and businesses damaged.
In addition to the $1,125,000 in donations announced this week, Norfolk Southern has distributed more than $4.9 million in direct payments to more than 3,000 local households, and set up a $1 million community assistance fund. The company has also appointed a “community liaison” — a Norfolk Southern employee who will be stationed in East Palestine for the next year and will oversee a budget of $1 million for community needs and improvements.
Some observers have criticized the size of Norfolk Southern’s financial response to the disaster. The company spent $4 billion on stock buybacks last year.
Norfolk Southern shed about $6.68 billion in market capitalization between the Feb. 3 train derailment and Feb. 23, with its stock dropping 11.2% in that period, while the S&P 500 SPX, -1.05% slipped 3.0% over the same time.
Tomi Kilgore contributed to this story.
This article was originally published by Marketwatch.com. Read the original article here.