Money for some attack victims scarce

| Friday, September 21, 2001

Although financial relief for the survivors of those killed in last week's terrorist attacks may total in the hundreds of millions of dollars, some families now stand to receive no more than $30,000 in direct aid.

While millions in public and private funds are flowing to the relief effort, much of it is committed to families of firefighters or the children of airline passengers who may have fought with hijackers, according to The New York Times.

Well-established benefits have long been in place for the families of firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty. A federal program provides a lump sum of more than $150,000 to the family of each "first responder" who died in the catastrophe, the newspaper reported. Surviving spouses of New York emergency workers - but not paramedics, under current law - receive a lifetime tax-free pension equal to the last year's earnings, plus health insurance.

In contrast, kitchen workers at Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the Trade Center have $15,000 life insurance policies, and their families' union health insurance will end in November.

The financial circumstances of the families left by the 5,000 missing people depend greatly on their employers, and on the employees' own planning. Officials say planning has begun to coordinate where the funds will go, but are awaiting word on how much of the $40 billion in promised federal aid will flow to victims' families.

Ken Curtin, a Red Cross employee who coordinates private relief efforts for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told the Times that agencies must be careful. Certain government benefits may be forfeited if private charity is provided. "I don't see any lack of private funds to get people taken care of," Curtin said. "It looks like it's all a matter of good organization now, and not a matter of resources."

Every victim is eligible for support from the New York Crime Victims Board, no other resources are available. As a safety net of last resort for the disaster's victims and their families, the board will provide up to $600 a week in lost income, to a maximum of $30,000.

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