On September 11, 2001, four passenger airliners were hijacked by terrorists and as a result 3,047 people were killed. This number does not include the many injured, their families and friends, nor does this figure reflect the thousands of loved ones left behind that fateful day by the deceased. For many, the wounds caused by these acts of terrorism will never truly heal, but with help and assistance, victims may be able to rebuild their lives. Having coordinated effective victim assistance services for victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, other incidents of mass violence, and several cases of international terrorism, it was logical that the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) would be expected to coordinate services and administer federal funding for the victims of this tragedy. Thanks to earlier congressional legislation and the establishment of the Antiterrorism Emergency Reserve, OVC had a mechanism in place to respond to the victims of these terrorist attacks in a timely manner, until further congressional appropriations could be made available.
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2002, OVC received $68.1 million in funding authorized in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2002 [Public Law 107-117] to respond to the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks. To date, OVC has committed more than $65.6 million of this funding appropriation. The remaining $2.4 million plus will be used to assist victims of the terrorist attacks during the criminal trial of Zacarias Moussaoui.
Congress specifically directed OVC to award grants for counseling programs to assist victims, family members of victims, and crisis responders. Recognizing that several months had passed since the terrorist attacks, that victims in need of psychological and emotional support were at different stages of coping and recovery, and that there were a variety of avenues for delivering counseling services, OVC identified four types of victim counseling services for which funds could be used: crisis counseling, crisis intervention, mental health counseling, and peer support. States with affected victim populations were notified of the types of counseling services for which funding was available. OVC divided the grant funding into three categories: victim compensation grants, victim assistance grants, and nonprofit organization grants. Because funds could be used to support community-based victim service programs that provided crisis counseling, crisis intervention, and peer support, a total of $36,174,510 was awarded to five state victim assistance agencies that administer victim assistance formula grants awarded annually by OVC. Likewise, because many victims seek reimbursement from state crime victim compensation programs for mental health counseling services provided by a private vendor, OVC awarded two grants totaling $6,087,500 to two state crime victim compensation programs, also the recipients of annual formula grant awards. Grants were also awarded directly from OVC to nongovernmental, nonprofit organizations that did not receive funding from any other federal source. Nine grants, totaling $437,940, were awarded to these organizations.
Using moneys from the Antiterrorism Emergency Reserve, nearly 22,000 victims, crisis responders, and family members have been assisted by state agencies and local programs; approximately 37,000 victims were assisted via OVCs Call Center; and 1,800 victims and family members received travel support via OVCs Victim and Family Travel Assistance Center. The Antiterrorism Emergency Reserve includes moneys from both the Crime Victims Fund and appropriated dollars from the Department of Defense Appropriations Act. Six states and 55 nonprofit organizations received funding from OVC to assist victims of the terrorist attacks. Funding was used to provide a wide variety of services and assistance, develop informational materials, and develop and expand state and local program capacity to assist victims by creating victim databases, identifying and recruiting community advocates to assist with intervention efforts, and covering unreimbursed expenses incurred by victims. A breakdown of states and organizations that received funding directly from OVC can be found in Appendixes A and B.
Grant recipients report that the process of responding to victims of the terrorist attacks resulted in greater coordination, increased outreach efforts, and ongoing communication with multiple government agencies and service organizations, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross, state mental health agencies, and the United Way. Victim compensation programs were able to assist victims by streamlining the claim application and emergency payment procedures so that thousands of victims would receive compensation benefits in a timely manner.
Although the recipients of the government funds were appreciative of the funding, many expressed concern that the eligible uses for the funds were restricted to counseling. They indicated that victims had many other unmet needs for which this funding could have been more effective in aiding recovery. Responding to this concern, Congress directed in the Conference Report to the FY 2002 Supplemental Appropriations Act [Public Law 107-206] that remaining unexpended balances of funding appropriated under this heading in Public Law 107-117 be made available for other authorized programs in addition to counseling programs. Recipients of funds were informed of this change and asked to notify OVC of their unexpended balances and any plans to use funds for purposes other than counseling. The amended legislation allowed for more flexibility to provide the full range of victim services allowable under the guidelines for OVCs Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program and victim compensation and victim assistance programs.
This report covers OVCs use of the $68.1 million authorized by Congress in the Defense Appropriations Act of 2002 to assist the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The efforts of Congress and OVC have significantly helped victims and survivors of the September 11th acts of terrorism; however, there is still much important work to do. We look forward to working with you to further the cause of justice for victims of acts of terrorism and all victims of crime, and appreciate your continued support for crime victims and the issues and programs administered by OVC.