9/11 relief fund nears $6B mark
 
By DEVLIN BARRETT
Associated Press Writer


June 11, 2004, 5:27 PM EDT

 
WASHINGTON -- The fund for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks has already agreed to pay out nearly $6 billion as the unprecedented program nears its final day of operation next week.

The fund has paid or authorized payments totaling $5.8 billion, fund officials said Friday. Fund workers are rushing to complete all of their work before the fund's final day of operation on Tuesday.

The fund was created by Congress after the terrorist attacks to compensate those injured and the families of those killed, and to protect the airlines and other U.S. entities from potentially crippling litigation.

More than 7,000 claims were filed with the fund.

As of Friday, 2,425 death claim payments have been made or authorized. With about 90 other death claims rejected or withdrawn, that leaves about 400 claims still to be processed.

After receiving 4,429 injury claims, the fund has rejected 1,651, or more than a third. Officials have determined injury awards for 2,334 injury claims, and have several hundred still to complete.

"The process has been exhaustive, and seemingly exhausting," said Perry Binder, a professor at Georgia State University's Robinson College of Business who has tracked the fund's progress.

The average payout to families of deceased victims has consistently edged upward since the program's inception, and now stands at just above $2 million, while the median is $1.7 million. The largest presumed award is more than $7 million.

Injury payments have ranged from as little as $500 to as high as $8.6 million, which was recently awarded to a 33-year-old woman crushed by debris at the World Trade Center.

While the overwhelming majority of victims' families have enrolled in the fund for compensation, a small minority have opted instead to file lawsuits charging negligence by airlines, security companies, and other U.S. entities in failing to prevent the terror attacks.

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On the Net:

Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund: http://www.usdoj.gov/victimcompensation/

Copyright 2004, The Associated Press