CHICAGO — Boeing said on Wednesday it would give $100 million over multiple years to local governments and non-profit organizations to help families and communities affected by the deadly crashes of its 737 MAX planes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
The move is a step toward repairing the image of the world’s largest planemaker, which has been severely dented by the crashes and its sometimes clumsy response to them.
Boeing faces probes by global regulators and U.S. lawmakers over the development of the 737 MAX, as well as more than 100 lawsuits by the families of victims of a Lion Air crash in October and Ethiopian Airlines in March, which together killed 346 people.
The multiyear payout is independent of the lawsuits, a Boeing spokesman said, meaning it will not go directly to the families.
The $100 million is meant to help with education and living expenses and to spur economic development in affected communities, Boeing said, without specifying which authorities or organizations would receive the money. It also said it will match any employee donations through December.
“The families and loved ones of those on board have our deepest sympathies, and we hope this initial outreach can help bring them comfort,” said Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg.
The money might be better spent returning the remains of victims to their families, suggested Robert Clifford, a Chicago-based attorney representing several of the Ethiopian crash families.
“These families are distraught about the effort to get back their loved ones,” Clifford said. “They want closure.”
Boeing is in settlement talks over the Lion Air litigation and has separately offered to negotiate with families of Ethiopian Airlines victims, but some families have said they are not ready to settle.
The 737 MAX was grounded worldwide in March, after the second crash. Boeing is working on a fix for software that has been identified as a common link in both crashes, which must be approved by U.S. air regulators before the 737 MAX can fly again.