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Friday, 8 March, 2002, 08:07 GMT
US boosts terror attack payouts
Pictures of victims of the 11 September attacks
Nearly 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center
The US Government has decided to increase the amount of compensation awarded to relatives of the victims of the 11 September attacks.

It has nothing to do with greed. I believe it has everything to do with valuing a lost loved one

Compensation overseer Kenneth Feinberg
Kenneth Feinberg, the fund's overseer, made the announcement and other changes seen as being beneficial to family members as he set the final rules for qualification.

Mr Feinberg estimates that the average award now to family members will be about $1.85m - nearly $200,000 more than initially anticipated.

The increase is the result of changes he has made to the final regulations governing the fund, which was established by the government to try to discourage victims' families from seeking damages.

Ground Zero
The site at Ground Zero is now almost cleared
The fund was set up as part of the $15bn airline assistance package passed by Congress in the weeks after the attacks.

It is intended as an alternative to the courts for 11 September victims.

To receive an award from the fund a family must agree not to sue the airlines or other entities such as the World Trade Center.

US Attorney General John Ashcroft said: "Over the past few months, the department and [Kenneth Feinberg] have worked tirelessly to develop a fund that is sensitive and fair to those who are suffering as a result of the terrorist attacks on our country.

"I believe this goal has been achieved."

Low take-up

Only 350 families have so far applied to take part in the government scheme, because of concerns that the cash awards were not enough.

Now, others will have longer - until the end of next year - to decide if they will follow suit.

New York aid
Average payout: $1.85m
Airline bailout package: $15bn
Extra aid: $5.4bn

The families of illegal immigrants will also now have an opportunity to claim this compensation, as will people who have sought medical treatment since the attacks.

For those injured, the rules previously limited eligibility to those who sought medical treatment within 24 hours of the attack.

The new rules extend that time to 72 hours and may be even longer for rescue workers on a case-by-case basis, Mr Feinberg said.

This may allow rescue workers injured in the clear-up operation some access to financial help.

Dozens of offices open on Friday to begin handling families' requests.

Most of the offices will be in the New York area, where some 2,800 of the more than 3,000 people killed in the attacks died.

President Bush on Thursday pledged an additional $5.4bn in aid to help New York recover from the attacks, raising the total promised US assistance to New York City and state to over $20bn.

See also:

08 Jan 02 | Americas
Terror attack pay-outs under review
23 Dec 01 | Americas
Giuliani backs victims' claims fight
21 Dec 01 | Americas
Complaints over US compensation fund
21 Dec 01 | Business
First 11 September lawsuit filed
20 Dec 01 | Americas
Ground Zero fires finally out
15 Nov 01 | Business
US air crash victims favoured
14 Sep 01 | Business
Insurance costs 'incalculable'
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