- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

Officials with the September 11th Fund in New York said yesterday they were creating a $75 million program to expedite checks to victims by the end of the year.
"We created this cash-assistance program to help ensure the financial security of the victims and their families," Franklin Thomas, chairman of the $340 million fund, said at a press conference in New York.
"We've already been providing aid, as have others," he said, "but we see a need to bridge a financial gap before more extensive assistance becomes available from the government and other charities."
The $75 million will come primarily from the September 11 Telethon Fund, which received $150 million in pledges from the Sept. 21 "Tribute to Heroes" celebrity telethon. Actor George Clooney, a leading organizer of the telethon, appeared at yesterday's press conference, as did New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
The September 11th Fund, which was created by the United Way of New York and New York Community Trust on the day of the terrorist attacks, was handling the telethon money as a separate fund.
Fund officials said they will give lump-sum payments of $10,000 to deceased victims' families and people who were injured in the attacks.
Those who have been displaced from their homes or jobs as a direct result of the attacks and are in financial need can apply for lump-sum payments of $2,500.
Fund officials said they expected as many as 3,000 people to apply for the $10,000 payments and 20,000 to apply for the $2,500 payments.
The $75 million cash-disbursement program is in addition to the September 11th Fund's emergency cash-assistance program, which has been giving up to $10,000 to victims who can demonstrate need.
About $55 million in cash payments already have been distributed from the September 11th Fund, officials said. With the new cash program, a total of $143 million should be distributed by the end of the year.
Yesterday's announcement comes a month after the American Red Cross held a press conference to say that it was going to quickly distribute cash grants from its specially created $564 million Liberty Fund.
The Red Cross had come under fire for saying it planned to use millions of Liberty Fund dollars for development projects and future terror relief.
On Nov. 14, Red Cross leaders said they had "heard" the wishes of American donors and promised to direct all of the money in the Liberty Fund to victims and their families. Red Cross Chief Executive Officer Harold Decker said the charity would give out six months of cash aid to families by the end of this year for a total of $111 million and make another six months of aid available for families who need it.
The September 11th Fund has received similar criticisms, and in recent weeks its chief executive officer, Joshua Gotbaum, has appeared before Congress and on media programs to defend the fund's gifts to nonprofit groups and legal-defense groups.
Yesterday's announcement "is a step in the right direction," said Rich Cowles, executive director of the Charities Review Council in St. Paul, Minn.
"What the September 11th Fund and other charities have done wrong is not so much the way they've distributed the money but their lack of communication about it," he said. These charities are not a cash pass-through, "and the burden is on them to explain that, regularly."
In addition to private charity, terror-attack victims were to receive money from the multibillion-dollar September 11 Victims Compensation Fund, which was created by Congress shortly after the attack and must be in operation by Dec. 21.

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