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Leading Financial Firms to Provide Planning Assistance to September 11 Victims - 2002-04-19

Six leading financial firms have joined forces with a not-for-profit organization to provide financial planning assistance to families and victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The program aims to help victims and victims' families plan their financial future and manage money they receive from compensation or insurance funds.

Six large financial firms, including American Express and JP Morgan Chase, will work with the 9/11 United Services Group to offer free financial counseling. The firms, which normally compete on Wall Street, are working together to provide support through a hotline and financial seminars.

At a news conference to announce the program, Elizabeth McLaughlin said that after losing her 29-year-old husband in the World Trade Center attack, she looked for short- and long-term advice on planning for the future for her nine-month-old baby, Nicholas. "I was faced for the first time with the idea of supporting our family alone and planning for Nicholas' future. At the most basic level, this meant figuring out what I had and what we needed to live on day-to-day in the short term," she said. "This was coming up with a budget, figuring out what my mortgage was, figuring out how much baby formula cost and figuring out a way that I can afford that."

The special master in charge of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, Kenneth Feinberg, said that offering financial planning fills an important gap. And, he said, the timing is right. He expects the number of people applying for claims to continue to rise in the coming days, after important economic decisions regarding compensation are made.

Mr. Feinberg said that, although only 10 percent of people eligible have applied for federal compensation, 80 percent have requested the necessary documents. "I'm confident that the great bulk of eligible claimants will come into the program. And that is why I say again, this group that is here today is announcing a program at exactly the right time, exactly the right time relative to the amount of money that will become available under the federal program," he said.

Financial planning can be costly. Organizers say that the advice will be available in up to nine languages to people who receive compensation in the United States and abroad.