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September 11 Fund releases millions

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The September 11th Fund announced Wednesday the release of an additional $75 million to aid families of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

The fund, established by the New York Community Trust and the United Way of New York City in the aftermath of the horrific attacks, has raised $347 million, and had previously released $68 million in grants.

The newly released monies will be distributed in $10,000 checks issued to families of victims who died in the tragedy and $2,500 to people who lost their homes or jobs in the attacks.

"What we're doing today is announcing in effect a bridging program to help families with cash assistance and services and to help people who've lost their jobs or been displaced from their homes by virtue of this tragedy," fund chairman Franklin Thomas told CNN on Wednesday.

Those people who are already in the fund's database will automatically receive the new checks, officials said.

The executives who spoke at Wednesday's news conference went out of their way to make the point that they are working with other charities to ensure that all of the money gets to the victims of the attack.

"We have in this process pulled together and worked with many organizations to help the thousands of people who were affected by the tragedy," said CEO Joshua Gotbaum.

Thomas added: "I think there is a natural tension between the desire to do it quickly and the need to do it well and responsibly. And we've been establishing that balance using our best judgment with knowledge of what other funds are doing and how needs are being met."

New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was on hand to commend the fund for its cooperation with his office, which has been trying to form a central database to integrate all of the charities.

"I think the fact that these funds will go out without anybody needing to come back to the fund to re-submit an application, to once again prove what they should not need to prove again, really is such a wonderful statement which is why I wanted to be here to applaud the September 11th Fund for doing this," he said.

Spitzer will make an announcement on Friday about how his database will function.

Actor George Clooney, who participated in a telethon tribute that raised more than $100 million for the fund, was on hand for the announcement in New York City to help alleviate the skepticism among the general public.

"It worries us, so we all wanted to show up," Clooney said. "One of the reasons we're here is not to be defensive or defend this because it's operating perfectly well, we just wanted to make sure what we're doing. And I'm here to help bring focus to it."

Thomas says the decision on how to distribute the rest of the money, about $200 million, is still to be determined.


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