- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California enables residents to donate money to a variety of charitable causes while they file taxes. The distribution of the money lacks oversight, creating problems for funds like these:

CALIFORNIA MILITARY FAMILY RELIEF FUND

Lawmakers established a fund in 2004 to provide grants to families of National Guard troops facing a sudden drop in income after overseas deployments. Despite thousands of families disrupted by deployments, the California Military Department didn’t spend $1.2 million out of $1.5 million raised, citing strict eligibility requirements in the establishing legislation. The money was moved to another fund, where it will be used to help troops with the challenges of returning to civilian life.

CALIFORNIA ASTHMA AND LUNG DISEASE RESEARCH FUND

Californians donated more than $800,000 to research preventing and treating asthma and lung disease research, but a third of the funds ended up back in the state treasury. State health agencies say the money fell through the cracks after a 2007 reorganization, automatically reverting to the state budget for general purposes after the fund expired.

CALIFORNIA COLORECTAL CANCER PREVENTION FUND

Erin Stennis teamed up with then state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas to promote legislation establishing a colon cancer awareness and prevention fund after her husband died from the disease. Ten years later, none of the $235,000 was spent on cancer, a victim to the same government reorganization as the asthma and lung disease fund.

CALIFORNIA YOUTH LEADERSHIP FUND

Then-State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, successfully pushed for a tax check off in 2012 to fund a new department under the Department of Education that would help disadvantaged youth develop leadership skills and provide scholarships. It collected a meager $88,000, and the education department opted to send the money back to the state treasury rather than try to use it. DeSaulnier says checkoffs should come with a warning that funds could go to the government instead of good causes, as donors intend.

PROSTATE CANCER RESEARCH FUND

It took five years for a prostate cancer coalition to receive more than $200,000 for research grants in 2011. Prostate Cancer Foundation President Dr. Jonathan Simons says the experience shows the inefficiency of raising money through the government. The organization faced similar delays after establishing another program in New York.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES FOR HOMELESS CHILDREN

A program to raise money to aid homeless children’s education raised a substantial $635,000 in two years, but the Department of Education estimated the cost of giving out that money to nonprofits would top $150,000. Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last year redirecting the money to bolster a similar program at the Department of Social Services.

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