Thursday, November 8, 2001

There’s a disconnect between what the American people thought they were doing when they gave to September 11 charities and what charities are doing with the donations, a congressional hearing showed this week.
“It appears that there are two groups of people who are confused” about the September 11th charitable relief “donors and the families of the victims,” said House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin, Louisiana Republican.
“Neither one of these results is very good,” he said at a hearing Tuesday before the subcommittee on oversight and investigations.
The September 11 charity issue is scheduled to be revisited this morning when charity officials face a second House oversight subcommittee.
Leaders of the American Red Cross, September 11th Fund and Salvation Army; New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer; an Internal Revenue Service spokesman; and charity watchdogs are invited to appear before the House Ways and Means subcommittee on oversight.
At Tuesday’s hearing, members of Congress told charity leaders that when Americans were begged for money for “specially created” funds after the September 11 attacks, they gave generously, thinking their money would go to the families of the victims.
But American Red Cross President Dr. Bernadine Healy and leaders of other September 11 charities said their missions were always broader than that.
The Red Cross “never said” September 11 funds would only go to victim’s families, said Dr. Healy.
The funds were for immediate disaster relief, the victims’ families, the aftermath and future needs related to terrorism, she said, and the Red Cross has “obligations that go beyond the World Trade Center.”
“Every single dollar” will go to victims, their families and the affected community, said Joyce M. Bove, an official with the September 11th Fund in New York, which has raised $354 million, including $150 million raised by the Sept. 21 “Tribute to Heroes” telethon.
Congressmen were unhappy with these responses. The money that was raised “was for these families,” said Rep. Bart Stupak, Michigan Democrat.
“It came on the heels of September 11, and it was for use now,” not for future needs, he said.
If September 11th donations are going to be used for “future” needs, it looks like charities took advantage of a tragic situation, he added.
The Red Cross is fighting to get more of its message across. At a press conference Tuesday, the agency said it may extend cash assistance to help victims and their families pay bills beyond the customary three months to six months or possibly longer.
Red Cross spokesmen also said the Red Cross has paid out $121 million in cash to victims more than any other charity.
This included grants averaging around $25,000 to about 2,500 families, they said, and that about 500 households have turned down Red Cross aid.
But celebrities also appear to be confused about the relief funds.
Actor George Clooney, who organized the Sept. 21 telethon, recently wrote a letter to Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly, who has been accusing charities of mishandling the money and celebrities of dodging their role in it.
That’s “nothing short of a lie,” Mr. Clooney said in his letter, according to Entertainment Online (
The September 11th Fund “has already handed out some $36 million to victims’ families,” he wrote.
According to the September 11th Fund, however, less than $18 million of the $34.4 million it has disbursed has gone for cash payments to families. The biggest sum $15.5 million went to Safe Horizon, which issues checks up to $1,500, and another $2.2 million went to 11 United Way chapters, who also used it for cash payments.
The other $16.7 million from the September 11th Fund went to nonprofit organizations, including ones that will make loans to small businesses, replace ambulances, offer massages to relief workers, provide legal services and offer shelter to victims of domestic violence.

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