If you were one of the thousands of grieving Americans who donated to the September 11 Fund or to the celebrity-packed "Tribute to Heroes" telethon thinking your generosity would benefit the families of the victims of the World Trade Center attacks, prepare for more grief. It looks like lots of the money—the charities have raised more than $300 million—isn't going to the families at all—unlike the fund started by Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the hero of the rescue and recovery effort—but instead will feed the maw of New York City's bloated social services sector.
Take the Legal Aid Society. It received $171,000 "to provide emergency civil legal assistance to low-income attack victims." Mental-health organizations really hit the jackpot: $100,000 to Interfaith Neighbors, $75,000 to Disaster Psychiatry, and $15,000 to Healing Works to provide counseling to victims and—get this—"the social service providers working with them." Most galling is the nearly $1 million the Mental Health Association of New York will get "to augment a citywide crisis database including certified clinicians and increase the capacity of its mental health hotline." There's not even the pretense of aiding the WTC families.
It's bad enough that the board of the fund, under the leadership of former Ford Foundation president Franklin Thomas, has peremptorily decided that it should not let families themselves determine whether to spend the money on counseling, legal advice, or, say, a mortgage payment. In the recent tradition of major charities, it has also inflated the concept of victim to include any minority group ready to yell "intolerance." The fund will dish out $60,000 to the Outreach Arab-American Family Support Center; $50,000 to the Immigration Coalition "to document and inform authorities of bias incidents against members of immigrant groups"; and $30,000 to the Asian-American Legal Defense Fund for the same kind of thing. In the most astounding example of all, the fund is bestowing $10,000 on the Liberty Center for "Guyanese immigrants in the Richmond Hill area of Queens to deal with fear, bias incidents, and concerns of the undocumented." How helping out undocumented Guyanese aliens is supposed to help the families of September 11 victims is anybody's guess.
Everything changed after September 11—except for the way New York City does business.