Red Faces at the Red Cross

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Red Cross interim Chief Executive Officer Harold Decker meets with reporters

Responding to widespread criticism that funds meant for victims of September 11th attacks were being diverted to unrelated causes, Red Cross officials announced Wednesday that all donations sent to the organization’s Liberty Fund will be given directly to families affected by the attacks. And in an effort to streamline the now infamously convoluted process of asking for and getting assistance, the Red Cross will also create a database to help coordinate the efforts of all relief organizations.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]Donors "have made very clear" all money should go to attack victims, Red Cross chairman David McLaughlin told reporters. "We are making a course correction. Fully 100 percent of the $500 million Liberty Fund will be dedicated to those affected by the September 11th attacks. None will be held back for future events." The Red Cross, McLaughlin says, pledges to provide up to a full year of living expenses for all families of victims.

The Fund will remain separate from other Red Cross fund-raising efforts, McLaughlin continued. "We hope that with this action we will restore the faith of our donors and of the American public."

Harold Decker, the interim CEO of the Red Cross, apologized for any confusion they’d caused donors or those looking for help. "We deeply regret that our actions over the past weeks have not been as sharply focused as they should have been." Decker predicts that by the end of the year, the Red Cross will have distributed more than $275 million overall distributed to people affected by the events of September 11th.

This should clear up any confusion for many who believed the Liberty Fund, established in the days following the attacks, was dedicated solely to the victims of September 11th. Instead, recently ousted Red Cross President Dr. Bernadine Healy partitioned the fund into distinct sectors; one to help the World Trade Center, Pentagon and rural Pennsylvania victims, and another with money set aside to aid in future disasters.

Once this plan was revealed, the public outcry was harsh: Healy faced a severe dressing-down before a congressional committee just days after leaving office. Despite Healy's argument that the Liberty Fund would go to worthwhile causes, many felt the Red Cross had deliberately misled donors by using September 11th in a bait-and-switch ploy. Monday, the organization offered to return money to any donor who felt deceived by the fund-raising; there’s no word on whether anyone’s taken them up on their offer.