Fair compensation needed

Disaster relief funds, charity organizations and the federal government are all designating money to compensate the families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. The government’s plan, included in the airline bailout bill, will attempt to supply victims’ family members with annual aid equal to the lost wages or salary. But organizations like the Red Cross have made plans to pay for immediate costs many families face without the primary breadwinner. Clearly, the intent of the federal government and the charitable organizations is of the most philanthropic and genuine nature, but they must work together to effectively and fairly distribute money to those severely impacted by the terrorist attacks.

Donations to charities and relief funds have reached nearly $1 billion. Charities that support other issues are concerned they will not receive much-needed donations as Americans give all they can to the disaster funds. Working with such a large amount of money, confusion is unavoidable among the 140 charities involved.

The federal government’s fund is primarily directed toward the families of those killed or injured, and it will most likely not help people who lost jobs, homes or business due to the disaster. With this in mind, the charities should focus on giving money to those who didn’t face a loss of life, but still suffer the financial consequences of the devastation. This will prevent overlapping of public and private compensation that would unfairly waste the donations or make instant millionaires of some while forcing others into welfare.

Each charity has its own missions and goals, and smaller charities have established their niche in communities. These groups will be able to see areas of need that the federal government could easily overlook. Neighborhood charities must take advantage of this strength and give support and help to those who might be exempt from federal assistance. The kind of people these organizations can contact – low-wage workers, single mothers and others struggling to keep afloat in New York – must be given at least temporary assistance during the immediate economic disaster there. The nation must not ignore the restaurant workers, janitors, window washers, maintenance employees and other low-paid individuals affected by the loss of their employers and workplaces.

Keeping track of the money will be an incredible challenge, and Attorney General John Ashcroft should take up New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s offer to organize the process. As suggested by Spitzer, a computerized list of the beneficiaries would help sort out the mess of amounts and sources of donations. Organization is key during this situation; money issues are sticky even in the best of times. It would be unfortunate for the government and charities to unevenly spread the wealth available from the patriotic donations of Americans.