Following a six-week surge in applications, the federal government's September 11th Victim Compensation Fund has received applications from 95 percent of the families eligible for benefits, the New York Times reports.
Officials of the Fund, which has set aside billions of dollars to compensate victims' families for their pain, suffering, and economic loss in return for the families waiving their right to sue the airlines involved in the 9/11 attacks, had been concerned that many families would not register. A month ago, the Fund had received preliminary applications from just 1,800 families, or 60 percent of all those eligible. As of the December 22 deadline, however, 2,833 people, or 95 percent of those eligible, had applied, with a third of all claims being filed in the last six weeks.
Many of those who registered as the deadline loomed said they had simply been too overwhelmed by grief to deal with the application process any sooner. "I have more things on my plate, right now, in my life, because mom is gone," said Mary Taddei, whose mother Norma died in the attacks. "I just said: 'You know what? Forget it. I'm never going to go through that paperwork.'" With help from her lawyer, however, Taddei managed to submit the preliminary papers before the deadline; families have until June 15, 2004, to complete and submit the final application form.
"It closes a very, very important chapter in the history of the 9/11 tragedy," said Fund administrator Kenneth R. Feinberg. "I think that many people who filed ultimately said, 'I must try, with all the grief and heartache, to bring some degree of psychological closure to this chapter, and if I stay there and litigate, I'm not really able to bring closure to this part of my life.'"
To date, the Fund has paid out about $1.5 billion, with the average award about $1.8 million. Awards to the 3,624 injury claimants have ranged from $500 to $7.9 million. By the time its work is done, the Fund is expected to cost taxpayers nearly $3 billion, much less than the $5 billion originally estimated by Feinberg.