NEW YORK (AP) -- The government announced an aid program that would give families of victims of the terrorist attacks an average of $1.65 million -- a plan that some families say doesn't go far enough.
"I think it's a disgrace," said Bill Doyle, whose 25-year-old son Joseph worked at Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center. He called the average compensation figure "incredibly low."
The program, announced Thursday, is aimed at compensating victims' families for economic losses, along with pain and suffering. The Justice Department will begin taking claims Friday and the first partial checks could be issued before New Year's.
For many relatives of victims, the compensation payments would come on top of thousands of dollars they are receiving from charity groups. The amount of money they would get from the new fund would not be affected by the size of payments from charities.
At a news conference Thursday, Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer in charge of the fund, said it was "an unprecedented display of taxpayers' generosity." The fund was set up in September as part of a $15 billion airline bailout bill passed by Congress.
But Feinberg later told The Associated Press that he doubted it would satisfy victims' families.
"They are just so caught up in the horror of what they've gone through that I think they have different expectations," said Feinberg, who said he has met with hundreds of victims' relatives.
Irene Boehm, whose husband died in one of the towers, was worried that the compensation for pain and suffering wouldn't be enough.
"They should have been at my house Tuesday when they came to tell me they had identified my husband's remains and then they would see that the figures for pain and suffering are ludicrous," she said. "No amount of money is ever going to replace him but my children should never have to want for anything."
Rochelle Gerlich of Monroe, Conn., was relieved to learn she wouldn't have to worry about finances for a while. But she said it would do nothing to lessen her grief over the loss of her husband, Robert.
"It's not even close to ... having my husband here," she said tearfully.
The size of compensation payments would depend largely on the victim's family size, age and earnings. Survivors of a low-income, 60-year-old bachelor may receive $300,000, while those of a high-earning 35-year-old with two children could receive $3.8 million.
Life insurance and pension fund payments would reduce the size of the awards. Citing those deductions, some said the average compensation amount is a misleading figure.
"I am very concerned that the number that has been released has been misrepresented," said Nikki Stern, whose husband, James E. Potorti, was killed at the trade center.
More than 3,000 people were killed in the attacks at the trade center and Pentagon and in the plane crash in Pennsylvania.
Those seriously injured in the attacks are also eligible for federal compensation based on the severity of their injuries. And Congress on Thursday moved to waive income taxes and provide payroll tax relief to the families of victims.
Relatives who take compensation money would largely give up their right to sue -- and some may not be willing to do that.
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