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Response to Terror

Sept. 11 Fund Cup Runneth Way Over

Money: Officials urge people to redirect donations from terrorist attack relief to other charities, which are going begging.

January 23, 2002|ANNE-MARIE O'CONNOR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Four months after the terrorist attacks spurred a record outpouring of charity donations, the managers of the Sept. 11 Fund have a new appeal: Stop giving us money.

Or to be more precise, they recommend people redirect donations to the many American charities that have been starved of cash since the crisis.

The reason? Fund managers say their donation pool--combined with money people have given to other charity recipients, such as the Red Cross--is adequate to meet the fund's goals.

"As these efforts continue, the philanthropic community must refocus on the unmet needs in our communities," said Lorie Slutsky, the president of the New York Community Trust, which co-manages the fund.

"The hungry and the homeless, schoolchildren, the elderly, all need our attention," Slutsky said in the official statement announcing the fund's shift.

Ani Hurwitz, senior consultant to the trust, said some large donors still plan to send money to the $425-million fund for job training and other needs that might arise.

"It's not like we're sending back checks," Hurwitz said.

However, the fund's available funding, plus grants still in the pipeline, seem capable of meeting its goals of providing for the immediate and longer-term needs of individuals, families and communities affected by the disaster, Hurwitz said.

"We think $425 million was a lot of money, and we want to spend it effectively," Hurwitz said.

That does not mean, Hurwitz said, that the fund believes it has enough money to meet all the needs of the victims. But that was never the intention, she said.

"This was a fund that was trying to pay for emergencies--for college tuition, for rent, for food--until all the other sources of money kicked in," she said.

Victims will also get indemnification from the federal Victims' Compensation Fund, the Twin Towers Fund, the Salvation Army and other funds started in the wake of the tragedy, and in some cases insurance and pension payments for survivors of those killed, Hurwitz said.

The Sept. 11 Fund has distributed $160 million so far. Most of the money was used to provide cash assistance and services to 27,717 victims and families in 50 states and 20 countries. A smaller amount--about 8%--went for rescue and recovery, and grants and loans to rebuild communities.

The fund will still make a special effort to help victims who are ineligible for compensation from many charities.

Many illegal immigrant workers or their survivors, as well as people who worked off the books, have been unable to get their employers to write letters stating that they employed some of the victims. In other cases, victims had remarried, and only family members are eligible for benefits.

"There are still a lot of people falling through the cracks," Hurwitz said "We're trying to help them."

Nonprofit organizations praised the announcement as a responsible move at a time when safety-net organizations are struggling to help people who lost their livelihoods in the economic downturn that followed the attacks.

Marco Gonzales, spokesman for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, said he hopes donors will redirect their contributions to the homeless shelters, food banks and social service agencies that are helping some of the 100,000 Californians who have lost their jobs since September.

More than 750,000 Californians are expected to seek some kind of safety-net services as a result of the attack and the economic downturn, he said.

"This will definitely encourage people to really take a good look at our local community to see how we are being affected by the aftershocks of this tragedy," Gonzales said. "Philanthropic giving tends to increase after a tragedy. We're certainly hopeful Angelenos will step up to the plate."

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