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Families Slow To Apply For 9/11 Help

The pain of Sept. 11 is keeping many families of terrorist attack victims from seeking federal assistance, the head of the government's compensation fund said Friday.

A day after revealing that nine victims' families accepted checks from a special relief fund, administrator Kenneth Feinberg was asked why so few had come forward.

"People are still grieving," he said on CBS News' The Early Show.

"I've met with scores of families and there are many, many families, less than a year after the horror, who simply cannot pick up a pen yet and fill out these forms, trying to value, so soon, a lost loved one," Feinberg said.

"This is an unprecedented program," he said, "and many families, I think, are waiting for awards like yesterday's to get a comfort level that the time has come to file a claim. But they will."

Feinberg was asked about the slow response in the wake of his report which showed that only about a fifth of the families of the more than 3,000 victims had sought financial aid so far.

Nine families which accepted a cash payout came from a pool of 25 applicants who received notice of their award in July from the Justice Department, which oversees the fund.

Feinberg said Thursday that four families are appealing their award and twelve have yet to respond.

The average award for the 25 applicants is $1.36 million, and the payments range from $300,000 to $3 million. The Justice Department would not say how much the nine families received.

Feinberg said while it would be a mistake to infer too much from just nine awards, they did provide some general guidance in what applicants could expect.

"I hope that this will give families a comfort level that they will be treated fairly," he said.

Feinberg had said in March that the average award to victims would be about $1.85 million before outside income sources, like life insurance, were deducted. The awards announced Thursday are minus those deductions.

Names and other identifying characteristics, like the number of children, were left off the information the department distributed Thursday. Only award ranges were provided.

Not surprisingly, those with the highest incomes received the largest awards. For those earning more than $200,000, awards ranged from $2.1 million to $3 million. Those who earned $50,000-$100,000 over age 35 received awards of $300,000-$1.9 million. Those with incomes below $50,000 under age 35 received $610,000-$1.4 million.

New York Lawyer Debra Steinberg speculated that some older applicants might receive less because they are more likely to have life insurance, which would have counted against their award.

So far, 662 people have applied to the victims fund, out of families of the more than 3,000 killed and injured in the attacks, according to the Justice Department.

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