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Red Cross: Victims will get all Liberty Fund monies

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Bowing to criticism, the American Red Cross announced Wednesday that "100 percent" of the money raised for its Liberty Fund will go toward victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The Red Cross had been criticized by donors and lawmakers because of its plans to do otherwise.

David McLaughlin, chairman of the board for the American Red Cross, said donors had made it "abundantly clear" that they wanted their money devoted to victims of the terrorist attacks. Wednesday's announcement, he said, amounted to a "course correction."

"With this action, we hope to restore the faith of our donors, the trust of the American public and to empower thousands of Red Cross workers and volunteers on the front line to devote themselves to their relief efforts," McLaughlin said.

The American Red Cross raised about $543 million for its Liberty Fund, but it stopped active solicitations two weeks ago in the face of criticism. About $154 million of the larger figure had been spent in response to the September 11 attacks, and much of the money had been earmarked for future needs, including preparing for the possibility of other terrorist attacks.

Dr. Bernadine Healy announced in October that she would resign as president of the American Red Cross at the end of the year. She had been a target of heavy criticism of her aggressive fund raising and the relatively small portion of the Liberty Fund that was making its way to victims' families.

Harold Decker, interim CEO of the American Red Cross, said none of the Liberty Fund money would be reserved for future use unrelated to the attacks.

"We will also make it easier for people affected by the tragedies to get help by creating a database with other relief agencies and public officials that will greatly improve coordination," Decker said. "With these changes and the commitments planned, we project by the end of this year the American Red Cross will have spent $275 million overall in support of people affected by the disasters, about one half of the $543 million that has been received to date in the Liberty Fund."


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