- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

The American Red Cross said yesterday it will distribute almost all of the $360 million remaining in its September 11 fund by the one-year anniversary of the attacks.

About $240 million will go directly to families, and $105 million will be spent on other short- and long-term services.

"The magnitude of this tragedy is without precedent in our history," former Sen. George Mitchell, independent overseer of the Liberty Disaster Relief Fund, said in New York yesterday.

No plan can meet all the needs of the families of the estimated 3,000 people who were killed or injured, and the 54,000 others who were directly affected by the attacks, said Mr. Mitchell. Therefore, the plan distributes funds "in a way that is most fair and best meets the needs of those who suffered loss," he said.

Harold Decker, Red Cross interim president and chief executive, said $165 million would go to families whose relatives were killed or seriously injured. This will result in an average of $109,000 for each family.

Another $60 million will be available to needy displaced residents, disaster workers and "economically affected individuals," while $15 million will go to needy family members who are ineligible for other charitable funds.

In addition, the Red Cross, which has raised $850 million in September 11 donations and has spent $490 million, expects to keep in reserve $80 million for other services over the next five years.

"From past experiences working on disasters, we know that the needs do not always disappear with the headlines," Mr. Decker said, adding that most of the money will go for health care.

Another $25 million will be used to maintain Red Cross call centers and other community operations.

Mr. Mitchell, Maine Democrat and former Senate majority leader, said he would remain as overseer for another year and make reports every three months.

Meanwhile, in Washington yesterday, the head of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund said he was looking closely at cases in which families might receive nothing from the federal fund.

The fund, which may cost $6 billion, expects to award an average of $1.6 million to each surviving family only after insurance, pensions and death benefits are subtracted, Kenneth R. Feinberg, special master of the fund, said at an American Insurance Association conference.

Because surviving spouses of firefighters and police officers receive generous death benefits, "there is a danger that they may net to zero," he said.

Mr.Feinberg said recent media reports about a public backlash against "greedy" families were "unfair and contrary to what's really going on here."

Families, as part of the grieving process, are trying to "reach out and place a value as high as they can possibly place it on what they've lost," he said. "I've said publicly and I say it again today, I think that the recent criticisms of the eligible claimants is entirely unjustified and unfounded."

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