NEW YORK - Less than 15% of the more than $1 billion sent to relief organizations after the World Trade Center attacks has been given to victims. According to officials coordinating the efforts of more than 200 charities, it could be months before the the majority of the money is distributed.
The biggest reason for the delay is that the government and charitable groups are struggling to build a database listing thousands of victims and their needs. There are also still disagreements over how best to distribute the money and how to speed up the application process.
Although the database should be completed by the end of the year, there are still many questions as to how it will be used.
There is a debate over how to determine victims' needs for funds as well as other services. Victims have been defined as those who lost loved ones as well as those who lost jobs or were traumatized. This broad definition allows for varying degrees of need amongst those who will receive funds. There is also a question as to how long to hold onto funds for future services such as long-term counseling, as was done with funds for the Oklahoma City bombing.
Victims' privacy is also a major concern. Some victims might not want personal information such as a need for mental health counseling listed alongside unemployment, and some might be worried that their undocumented status might be used against them by law enforcement. Some also fear that companies might gain access to the data and use it for their own purposes.
Despite the desire to distribute funds to victims as quickly as possible, there are many obstacles to overcome.
"There has never been anything quite like this in American history, and we can't begin to know what New York's long-term needs are going to be," said historian Kathleen McCarthy, director of the Philanthropy Center at City University of New York. "We want to give out the money quickly, but also responsibly."