UFA Announces Distribution Plan for Widows & Childrens Fund

TED SHAFFREY
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- The firefighters union said Friday it will distribute most of the $70 million in charitable donations it received since Sept. 11 to families of firefighters killed in the line of duty, responding to families' outrage at a plan to invest the money.

But the Uniformed Firefighters Association will keep $13 million to create an endowment for the families of firefighters killed on the job in the future, said union lawyer Michael Block.


The families of 80 firefighters killed on Sept. 11 asked state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in May to investigate the union and file suit if necessary over its plan to invest the money before providing payments.

The union also had planned to not give money to the families of single, childless firefighters who died in the terrorist attacks, said Randy Mastro, the attorney representing the firefighters' families. Block called the changes ``an evolving process'' that is now complete.

Under the plan announced Friday, the families of the 343 firefighters killed in the World Trade Center, along with the families of all firefighters killed in the line of duty since 1980 _ together more than 700 families _ will each receive $50,000.

Children of late firefighters who were 23 or under on Sept. 11 will receive $38,000 immediately, and $500 a year after that until they turn 24, said Block.

Chief James Riches, 51, lost his son, James Riches, 29, after the firefighter ran into the north tower. He said it was a shame the union had to be pressured to distribute the money as donors intended, although he was ultimately happy with the outcome.

``The Uniformed Firefighters Association went from one of the worst Sept. 11 charities to one of the best as far as giving it out,'' said Riches, of the 12th battalion in Harlem. ``It wasn't about money, it was about doing the right thing.''

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Official News Release:
UNIFORMED FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION OF GREATER NEW YORK

UFA, With the Help of Attorney General's Office, Settles on Distribution Plan for Funds Donated to Widows' and Children's Fund Since Sept. 11.

The Uniformed Firefighters Association is pleased to announce that, after consultation with its financial advisors and the invaluable assistance of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and his staff at the Attorney General's Charities Bureau, it has arrived at a plan for the distribution of the contributions generously donated to the Widows' and Children's Fund since September 11, 2001. We are very grateful to all who have contributed, and sincerely appreciate your support.

The distribution plan has several facets:

The Fund had previously distributed $20,000 to each surviving widow of a firefighter killed in the line-of-duty, both prior to, and on, September 11, 2001. We will now make an additional $30,000 distribution to each of those widows. Furthermore, we will immediately make a $50,000 distribution to the appropriate beneficiaries of single firefighters who died on 9/11/01. Those beneficiaries will include parents, domestic partners and/or actual dependents. If a single firefighter had no such beneficiaries, then the distribution will go to his estate;
The UFA will hold in reserve sufficient funds to make a substantial lump sum distribution to the surviving spouse of any firefighter who dies in the line-of-duty in the future. It also will retain sufficient funds to make an annual Christmastime distribution to the surviving children (up to age 24) of all firefighters who died in the line-of-duty. It is presently anticipated that distribution will be $500 per child. We shall continue to monitor future donations to the Fund, which may allow additional distributions;
The Fund also will retain sufficient sums to continue its traditional Christmas party and to assist the families of those firefighters who die in the line-of-duty to attend the annual firefighters' memorial held in Colorado Springs, Co., and
All of the remaining funds will be immediately distributed on an equal per capita basis to each child (under age 24) of firefighters who died in the line-of-duty both before, and on, 9/11/01. This group contains approximately 680 children and they will each receive approximately $38,000 immediately.
This plan fairly and justly considers the needs of past, present and future families of our fallen firefighters. We are very grateful to the Attorney General for his assistance and guidance.