A coalition of about a dozen charities, including the New York chapter of the American Red Cross, have formed the 9/11 United Services Group to help coordinate September 11 relief efforts and oversee a database with the records of about 30,000 individuals affected by the terrorist attacks, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times report.
The organization, which will be headed by Goldman Sachs Group vice chairman Robert J. Hurst and a board of twenty-one directors, plans to provide case managers to aid applicants who need help obtaining assistance; offer a toll-free hotline hosted by Safe Horizon, a nonprofit victims assistance agency that has been on the frontlines of the distribution effort; and launch a Web site to help people access further help online.
The group also plans to create a database to track aid to victims, including those who lost loved ones, became unemployed, or were displaced from their homes. New York State attorney general Eliot Spitzer began pushing for the creation of a central database a few weeks after the attacks, but has encountered some resistance from charities, including the Red Cross, concerned that such a database could compromise the privacy of those directly affected by the attacks.
Once it has been created, the database is expected to help speed payments and solve inequities in disbursing what remains of the more than $1.5 billion in donations that were made to September 11 relief efforts. According to one consultant working on the project, however, it will take weeks to eliminate duplicate information and clean up data-entry errors from the 75,000 records on some 30,000 victims that have been collected by three of the biggest charities working with the families of 9/11 victims — the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, and Safe Horizon. To protect the security of the data, only a few people will have access to the database, which is housed at IBM headquarters in Armonk, New York. In addition to IBM, other companies helping with the database effort include Qwest Communications, SilverStream Software, KPMG, and McKinsey & Co.