- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

A $1 million check earmarked to bring quick help to District families affected by the September 11 attacks has become ensnared by the slow-moving D.C. Emergency Assistance Fund, which has so far distributed only a small fraction of that amount, administrators say.
The fund is insisting that financial victims of the attack fill out the same extensive paper work it uses for routine cases of need.
"We are not doing much with the funds because the guidelines are not really allowing the funds to be used," said Gail Massey, program coordinator for Lutheran Family Services in Northwest, one of many private organizations that are helping attack victims get back on their feet
Ms. Massey said her organization has begun working instead with a private agency in Chicago and has distributed $20,600 from that source to more than 30 clients.
The United Family Planning Organization in Southeast, has severed its affiliation with the D.C. fund. Another organization, Neighbors Consejo in Northwest, will soon follow suit.
The city's assistance fund is a year old and was established to help working families in the District who are at risk of losing their homes or utility service because one or both spouses have lost their jobs.
On Oct. 31, the fund was given $1 million from Fannie Mae to bring immediate help to families affected by the September 11 attacks. The money went into the special Disaster Relief Fund that Mayor Anthony A. Williams established in late October.
Yet the fund's payment policies were not built for speed. To qualify for aid, individuals must have a documented history of housing and utility payments and a documented emergency situation.
They must also agree to work with a case manager throughout a three-month period to develop a monthly budget and demonstrate the ability to pay bills in the future.
It is this last criterion that is causing the most problems, administrators say.
Many of those seeking assistance are unemployed, having lost jobs in the hotel, tourism and restaurant industries.
Mary Lou Tietz, chairman of the local Federal Emergency Management Agency Board, which oversees the fund, said unemployment benefits could be counted toward ability to pay.
However, many September 11 clients come in because they have either been turned down for unemployment or their application has been delayed, said Judy Hooks, caseworker for the Greater Washington Urban League in Northeast.
"We were told [by the fund] to use the same guidelines as before, but I find it's a little different," Miss Hooks said.
"We are not able to help them because [they] do not meet the guidelines."
Rita Bryant, program coordinator for the Columbia Heights Shaw Family Collaborative, said something must be done to get money to attack victims. She agreed with those at other agencies that the ability-to-pay guideline was a problem.
Even after applicants prove their ability to pay, some local organizations say they are having trouble getting money from the D.C. fund.
"We were hoping to receive them around the first week of December but did not get any money until after Christmas," said Annette Carver, program coordinator at Samaritan Ministries.
As of Friday, Samaritan Ministries had distributed $7,000 in aid to six families financially affected by the September 11 attacks.
Mrs. Tietz said she did not know why Samaritan Ministries thought they would receive funds in early December and that no organization received the latest round of payments until this week.
She said the next round of funds could be ready by mid-January.

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