- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 15, 2001

American Red Cross leaders said yesterday they were doing a "course correction" and would direct all of the $564 million pledged for a special September 11 relief fund to victims of the terrorist attacks and their families.
"Americans have spoken loudly and clearly that they want our relief efforts directed at the people affected by the September 11 tragedies," said Harold Decker, chief executive officer of the Red Cross.
The Red Cross originally planned to save about 40 percent of the Liberty Disaster Relief Fund for future disasters, a move that had drawn criticism since its disclosure in October.
By the end of the year, victims and their families will receive six months worth of basic living expenses from the Liberty Fund. Another six months of support will be available later to those who need it, the leaders said at a press conference at Red Cross headquarters
David McLaughlin, chairman of the Red Cross Board of Governors, said he hopes this "course correction" will "restore the faith of our donors and the trust of the American public" in the Red Cross.
In October, the Red Cross said that while it had given or earmarked about $320 million from the Liberty Fund for people affected by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania county, as well as other related causes, it was going to "reserve" $227 million for future needs.
This decision brought a barrage of public criticism, the resignation of Red Cross President Dr. Bernadine Healy, who stepped down in part because of the handling of the Liberty Fund, and two congressional hearings on the handling of September 11 relief funds.
The policy to use some donations now and reserve some for future disasters is common at the Red Cross. As a disaster-relief organization, it strives to be prepared at all times, its leaders said.
But September 11th was "a disaster of unprecedented dimensions, and presented unique challenges to this organization," Mr. McLaughlin said yesterday. "We do not always get it exactly right, but we are a transparent organization and we'll make the changes when it serves the interest of the American public."
Rep. James C. Greenwood, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of one of the committees that heard testimony last week on charity spending, called the Red Cross actions a "first-rate response." Reps. Peter Deutsch, Florida Democrat, and Charles Bass, New Hampshire Republican, also attended the press conference to applaud the decision.
Red Cross officials also said yesterday they had to discard 8 percent of September 11-related blood donations because the supply became outdated. Less than 2 percent of blood typically reaches an expiration date, said Mr. Decker.
On September 11, desperate calls went out for blood because only one to three days worth was in the system, he said. The Red Cross now has a 10-day supply of blood, Mr. Decker added, but donations always are needed because blood is perishable.
In addition to helping families whose loved ones were lost or wounded in the terror attacks, the Red Cross was aiding those whose homes were damaged, those whose businesses were affected in the disaster areas, rescue workers, and families of those who died from anthrax.
Red Cross officials said:
By the end of the year, the Red Cross will provide $111 million to families whose relatives were lost or wounded in the terror attacks. So far, around 3,000 families have received some Red Cross funds for their housing, food, utilities, tuition, child care and health care.
In January, the Red Cross will report how the remaining $289 million pledged to the Liberty Fund will be spent. Some $543 million has been received so far, and the Red Cross no longer is soliciting for the fund because "we think we have enough to meet immediate and long-term needs," said Mr. Decker.
Three programs initially funded by the Liberty Fund the strategic blood reserve, armed forces services and community outreach will be funded in other ways.
Some 200 caseworkers will be hired and assigned to families to assist with long-term needs.
The Red Cross will be contacting the 25,000 families in its database for permission to give their information to a secure database that will be shared by relief agencies. Families who decline to be in the database still can receive aid from the Red Cross.
Many Liberty Fund operating costs, including its toll-free lines, will be paid for by interest from the fund. Overhead costs for the fund are expected to total 9 percent, an amount that is lower than usual.

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