- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2001

Beginning today, families of September 11 victims can begin applying for money from a massive federal relief fund.

The smallest amount that is likely to be awarded is $300,000, said Kenneth R. Feinberg, special master of the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

The median award is likely to be $1.5 million.

The fund, created by Congress shortly after the terror attack, is an "unprecedented display of taxpayer generosity," Mr. Feinberg said yesterday at a news conference at the Justice Department.

"While there is no amount of compensation that can replace a human life, our goal is to aid those who have so greatly suffered as a result of this horrendous act," he said.

Attorney General John Ashcroft "instructed me to cut all unnecessary red tape and deliver a program that can help the victims as soon as possible," Mr. Feinberg added. "Such a program is precisely what we are announcing today."

Beginning at 1 p.m. today, officials in New York and Washington will be ready to process advance benefits for victims. Families who lost a loved one can apply for $50,000, while people who were severely injured in the attacks can apply for $25,000.

In Washington, the office will be at the Sheraton Crystal City in Arlington.

In interim final regulations released yesterday, the Justice Department and Mr. Feinberg said that:

•Awards will be available to eligible claimants someone who was physically injured and disabled in the attacks or a representative of someone who died in the attacks. Foreigners and undocumented aliens or their families may apply for funds.

•By accepting the tax-free funds, claimants waive their rights to sue for damages, except from terrorists.

•The amount of an award will be calculated according to the number of dependents, the age of the deceased, the expected income and an amount for pain, suffering and loss of companionship. As an example, a widow with two children who lost her 40-year-old husband who made $80,000 a year could expect to receive $1.5 million, after deductions for life insurance, pension and other death benefits.

•Gifts from charities such as the American Red Cross and United Way will not be counted as deductible benefits.

•Disputes about who should be named the personal representative should be resolved according to the laws of the state in which the victim lived.

•The fund's special master makes final determinations about eligibility and compensation, and his decisions are final and are not reviewable by an court. However, Mr. Feinberg said yesterday that dissatisfied claimants "can appeal to me" one last time.

Details about the program are available at 202/305-1352 or 888/714-3385, as well as the Web site www.usdoj.gov/victimcompensation.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, yesterday praised Mr. Feinberg's actions. The interim rules "faithfully follow our goal of fair and prompt compensation" for the victims and their families, Mr. Leahy said.

Mr. Feinberg said yesterday that claims should be paid within 120 days of being filed.

He estimated that the total cost to taxpayers could be around $6 billion.

The death toll for the World Trade Center attacks fell below 3,000 this week, due to clarifications on names and missing persons.

A total of 189 persons died in the Pentagon attacks and 44 died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pa.

Non-Americans who died or were disabled also are eligible for the benefits.

The precise numbers of foreigners who died in the World Trade Center is unknown, but estimates range from 120 upward.

More than 60 countries have said they lost at least one citizen.

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