- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Some of the widows and widowers of the 4,100 New York victims of the September 11 terrorist attack are fighting to get charitable relief, but distribution efforts in Washington are under control, say officials with several relief efforts.
Military preparedness, a more "manageable" caseload and an Oklahoma City-style process for handling survivors' needs were cited as reasons for why donations for the 189 victims of the Pentagon attack were being distributed quickly and efficiently.
On Sunday, the New York Times reported that many bereaved spouses were "bouncing from one bureaucracy to the next," trying to obtain charitable relief. The story said that charities, new and old, were wrestling with huge outlays of cash, incomplete lists of victims and required paperwork.
In Washington, relief organizations realized that "this is a job that's bigger than any one of us," said Tony de Cristofaro, spokesman for the United Way of the National Capital Area.
The resulting collaboration "has helped us get money on the streets turn generosity into services much faster than they have in New York," he said. "They're just handcuffed by the scope of the problems up there."
Last week, the Capital Area United Way's September 11th Fund made one of the biggest outlays of funds $834,000 to 13 nonprofit groups that have been giving direct cash and emergency services to victims' families.
The rest of this September 11th Fund around $600,000 after a donation is sent to the sister fund in New York is likely to be distributed by the end of November to nonprofits that will provide for the long-term needs of families, said Mr. de Cristofaro.
Robyn Kehoe, spokeswoman for the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund, said $220,000 of its $1.25 million relief fund has been distributed to 36 families or 200 persons so far. Federal employees' families must seek aid and more money will be given if requested, she said. Any leftover funds will go for scholarships for victims' families.
The Army Emergency Relief program, which serves active-duty and retired Army personnel and their families, has distributed less than $100,000 of about $700,000 in its Pentagon Victims Fund, said Col. Greg Mason, deputy director for finance for the program.
However, "we've met every request we've gotten," and letters have been sent out to all known eligible families about the fund, he said. Once immediate needs have been met, money will be directed to educational scholarships.
Americans may not understand that charitable relief groups have to follow certain rules, added Col. Mason. "If people think that their money is going directly from their pocket through our pocket into a victim's pocket, they're sadly mistaken because it can't work that way. The laws and policies of the IRS don't permit that."
Americans may also not realize that some relief funds are intended for future needs.
Shortly after September 11, Washington relief groups called on Oklahoma City experts who handled that city's bombing, and devised a similar kind of plan, said Terri Freeman, president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. One recommendation was to set up a fund for long-term needs to give families "their lives back as best as they could," she said.
The foundation's Survivor's Fund now totals around $11 million and the first distributions won't begin until late November, she said. But families can contact the Northern Virginia Family Service, at 866/994-HOPE or visit www.nvfs.org, to get a case worker and start the process for services.
In other relief-related news yesterday:
The American Red Cross said it was no longer accepting donations for September 11 relief.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, asked the Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, Internal Revenue Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the attorneys general of New York and Virginia for an accounting of their charitable oversight by Nov. 16.

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