Terror Aid Difficult To Get
Families Of Attack Victims Find Paperwork Daunting

From The Filipino Express

January 14-20

By Rita Villadiego

NEW YORK -- While thousands of victims of the World Trade Center tragedy struggle to get assistance from government and private groups, many families of Filipino-American victims are disheartened by the complex paperwork involved.

It has been four months since the tragedy. But Grace Alviar, 53, whose husband Cesar, an accountant, has not applied for any government aid. She said she is avoiding the paperwork, knowing government agencies require a lot of documents.

Alviar said government agencies are giving more priority to the families of firefighters and police officers than other middle-income families of the victims.

"They gave little attention to us, especially minorities," Alviar said.

Alviar also felt frustrated by reports unscrupulous people, who are not victims of the tragedy, received funds. This, Alviar said, is leading to increasing disillusionment among many Filipinos.

Echoing Alviar's sentiment is Nenita Calvo, 53, a resident of Queens, whose husband, Ramon, perished at the World Trade Center. Calvo said she was discouraged by the insufficient information provided by government agencies on how to apply for aid.

"There is no assurance I could get funds. I'm getting worried. I have two children to support," Calvo said. 

Nineteen Filipinos are believed to have died in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. 

In a recent forum sponsored by the Filipino American Human Services Inc., families were able to get more information on how to avail of WTC disaster assistance.

Hezekiah Samuel, human services officer of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said his office has so far processed over 50,000 applications for WTC assistance, which includes compensation fund, disaster fund, mortgage rental assistance and workplace development fund.

Samuel said FEMA disaster funds do not discriminate applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, or economic status.

Sergio Media, coordinator of community relations for the Red Cross said they have started the 3-month cash program to benefit the victims.

"We encourage all victims to come to our place. We provide assistance regardless of immigration status," Medina said. 

He said delays in processing papers could be blamed on incomplete documents submitted.

Another non-government agency that can provide on the spot financial help is Safe Horizon.

Jose Atienza, executive director of Filipino American Human Services, Inc., said most Filipino victims have not gotten assistance because they were not ready to submit documents to appropriate agencies. FAHSI will continue to hold forums to inform the community.


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