- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2002

First the tears flowed, then the money.
The unspeakable television images on September 11 of the destruction of the World Trade Center and the burning Pentagon galvanized two-thirds of American households to do the one thing they could do write a check.
Within a month, $1 billion flowed into dozens of charities, with millions donated by credit card over the Internet.
At least $2.2 billion has been raised by the nation's 30 largest charities and nearly two-thirds $1.4 billion has been disbursed, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a trade newspaper for nonprofit organizations. Other estimates put the total raised at $2.4 billion.
The American Red Cross which last week said it had raised more than $1 billion in its Liberty Fund is set to release an additional $200 million by the end of the year to aid the 3,300 families whose loved ones were killed or injured and tens of thousands of others who lost their jobs or homes in the attack areas.
The remaining $600 million to $800 million in donations is being retained to pay for long-term services and college tuition, charities said in a survey by the Chronicle. For instance, the Citizens' Scholarship Foundation of America has spent only about 1 percent of its $65 million fund but expects to be serving families for as long as 30 years.
Some of these long-term plans have not pleased the families' advocates.
"Since there are still some people struggling to make ends meet, we don't think they should be holding that much back," said Stephen Push, treasurer of the Families of September 11th, which includes about 1,000 families.
Many Americans also have mixed emotions about their September 11 gift giving, according to charity watchers.
Independent Sector, a trade group for nonprofits, released a survey in August that found that 71 percent of Americans believed charities responding to September 11 were "honest and ethical" in how they used donations.
However, a survey of 1,000 adults taken a few weeks ago by the Chronicle found that 42 percent of Americans now had "less confidence" in charities because of the way the September 11 donations were handled. Nearly a third said they would be less likely to contribute again, and 27 percent said they would be less likely to donate to organizations that provide disaster relief.
At least 20 New Yorkers have been arrested for stealing about $1 million in aid, the General Accounting Office said in a report on September 11 charities released last week.
In the chaotic days after the attacks, victims and their families drew comfort from the outpouring of a grief-stricken nation.
"I know if my husband, Rob, had died under any other circumstances, I would not have this additional level of support," said Elizabeth McLaughlin at a November congressional hearing. Her 29-year-old husband was a partner at Cantor Fitzgerald, located on the 104th floor of the North Tower.
The media regularly included appeals for donations, as well as directions, for affected family members seeking help. In September and October last year, Americans raised more than $185 million in emotional, star-studded telethons and concerts. In Washington, the United We Stand concert at RFK Stadium, featuring Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Aerosmith and other entertainers, raised $2.1 million for four charities, organizers said.
An estimated 66 percent of U.S. households gave money to September 11 relief efforts, with gifts averaging $134, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University said in January.
Millions of dollars flowed out as fast as they came in: By early October, the American Red Cross disbursed at least $27 million to 1,700 families, at about $12,000 per family. Safe Horizon, a New York group funded by the September 11th Fund, distributed $102 million in checks of up to $1,500 to thousands of affected families.
But the American Red Cross ran into trouble with its plans to use millions of dollars in donations for expansion, maintenance and other purposes unrelated to paying the bills of victims' families.
The charity revamped its outreach and pledged to disburse 90 percent of its Liberty Fund donations to affected families, with an average of $121,000 expected to go to every family that lost a loved one.
The second-largest fund the United Way of America's September 11th Fund has distributed about $317 million, including $165 million to nonprofit groups and the rest in cash to families.
Much of its remaining $186 million is earmarked for grief counseling, job retraining for victims' families and displaced workers, as well as funding for the 9/11 United Services Group (USG), an umbrella group of New York social agencies that is coordinating information and assistance.
The charities' view is that "the surviving spouses and households who lost their sole source of support were going to be supported financially by the charities at first and then the federal compensation fund would make up any deficit," said Mrs. McLaughlin, who is on the USG board of directors.
But the federal compensation fund "hasn't kicked in yet" only 15 families have received checks, and only 690 families have filed claims "and my feeling is that there's going to be a very long gap in time, in which families might be getting into really big financial trouble," she said.
Hot lines are worthwhile, but the charities should continue to provide emergency cash assistance to families, added Mrs. McLaughlin, who is raising a young son. "I think personally the donors would agree with something like that."


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