Responding to mounting criticism, American Red Cross officials have announced a series of changes to the agency's Liberty Disaster Relief Fund designed to increase support for people affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks while also making it easier for them to get the help they need.
Coming just days after Red Cross officials said they would return donations to any and all contributors who request a refund, the new changes will make the immediate and long-term needs of the people affected by the attacks the sole focus of the $543 million Liberty Fund and will provide approximately $111 million in additional financial support before the end of the year. To date, the agency has allocated nearly $137 million from the Liberty Fund to immediate disaster relief ($77.2 million), direct support costs ($8.4 million), and the Emergency Family Gift program ($51.2 million). Red Cross officials project that disbursements from the Fund will rise to $275 million by the end of the year. In January 2002, the organization will present a plan detailing how the remaining funds will be spent.
Red Cross officials also announced that programs that had been folded into the Liberty Fund such as the Strategic Blood Reserve, Community Outreach, and Armed Forces services will now be funded from other sources; that the Fund's operating costs will be covered, to the extent possible, by the interest earned on the Fund's balance; and that the organization will share with other relief agencies the names of the 25,000 families it has helped to date.
"Americans have spoken loudly and clearly that they want our relief efforts directed at the people affected by the September 11 tragedies," said interim Red Cross CEO Harold Decker. "We deeply regret that our activities over the past eight weeks have not been as sharply focused as America wants, nor as focused as the victims of this tragedy deserve. The people affected by this terrible tragedy have been our first priority, and beginning today, they will be the only priority of the Liberty Fund."