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Clergy urge extensionof 9/11 FEMA deadline

For those affected by the Sept. 11 attack, Friday was the application deadline for federal help.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | LONG ISLAND, N.Y. | January 31, 2003

"This is a disaster with a scope beyond anyone's experience."

—Rev. Thomas Goodhue

For those affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Friday was the final day to file an application for federal help.

For the Rev. Thomas Goodhue, this federal deadline came far too soon.

"Our fear is if they don't get in by Friday into the registration then they may be out of luck," he said.

Goodhue, executive director of the Long Island Council of Churches, said that many of the clients with whom he deals daily did not apply for these funds, mainly because they either did not know they were eligible, or because they were told, wrongly, that they were ineligible.

He also thinks that the scope of the federal aid was far too limited, and needs to be expanded-to help out people like his clients on Long Island, many who are not going to get a dime from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Goodhue held a press conference Monday with others who share his concerns Congresswoman Carolyn Mahoney, the New York Immigration Coalition, Catholic Charities, Lutheran Disaster Response and the United Methodist Committee on Relief. And he met with the leaders of other faith-based disaster relief groups on Tuesday, at a meeting sponsored by Church World Service.

"We have never faced a disaster like this before, and we are all having to adjust as we go along our criteria for helping survivors," Goodhue said. "This is a disaster with a scope beyond anyone's experience."

But these criteria can be so confusing that the applicants, and even the FEMA telephone operators who take their applications, have a hard time determining who's qualified and who isn't, according to Goodhue.

The complexity of these rules was one of the main points addressed at Tuesday's meeting, he said.

One thing is certain, however: whoever needs financial help, and fails to get it from FEMA, will start looking elsewhere.

The Red Cross and the Sept. 11 Fund are the next rungs of support.

But, Goodhue contends, these groups, like FEMA, will not help the people he's concerned about, and that leaves faith-based groups "picking up the slack."

Problem is, there's only so much slack that these groups can pick up. At the meetings this week, representatives of the faith-based groups doubted that they have the funding to last through the year.

"We've raised all the funds we can to help all the people we can," he said. "The reality is we're going to run out of money soon."

The problem, however, " is likely to last for years and years."

He estimates that 100,000 jobs were lost in a time of economic slowdown, and some of these jobs can't possibly be replaced.

He gives the example of a waiter who once worked for Windows on the World, raking in $80,000 a year. There aren't too many burger joints that pay that kind of salary.

"It's everyone from the limo drivers and the deli counter clerks" to people who worked on the 100th floor of the World Trade Center making more than a $100,000 a year.

The laid-off airline-industry workers concern him the most, however.

While the airline industry got a $15 billion government bailout, Goodhue feels that the workers got dumped.

"They are at risk of becoming helpless," he said.

Goodhue's first client was a limousine driver who "was afraid of being evicted." Another was an airline worker who had relocated to Long Island and paid a "humongous" mortgage. She lost her job in less than a week after Sept. 11.

Neither of these clients is eligible for federal help, he said.

One situation that Goodhue has personally observed points out the absurdity of the federal eligibility requirements: two men who once worked side-by-side at JFK airport. Both got laid off. The man living in Manhattan received federal benefits. His counterpart in Long Island, however, did not.

This is part of the problem that Goodhue thinks needs correction, and he hopes that it gets fixed before the faith-based groups have to spend all their funds "picking up the slack."

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NJ interfaith group closes doors

Observing 9/11 by doing good deeds

More links on September 11 2001

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