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Victims fund final regulations increases number of people eligible and boosts award amounts

Updated:

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The final rules for distributing money from a federal fund for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks has been expanded to cover more people and give them more money.

The average award will be about $1.85 million, roughly $200,000 more than what was calculated under draft guidelines released in December, Kenneth Feinberg, the special master of the victims fund, said Thursday.

Early versions of the rules also limited eligibility to civilians who were injured within 24 hours of the attack. New rules would extend that to 72 hours for those who worked at the World Trade Center and would remove the time limit for rescue workers who responded.

Feinberg said he had received thousands of comments about the fund, many from victims expressing concern that the payments would not be substantial enough to cover future expenses.

``The suggestions have not fallen on deaf ears,'' he said.

The base ``non-economic'' award for families of people killed will be $250,000. A surviving spouse and each surviving child would get $100,000 each, up from $50,000 called for in the draft guidelines.

Families also will receive money for the lost earning potential of the victim, which could be a very large sum for many families. That amount will be reduced by life insurance claims and certain pension payments.

But Social Security benefits and worker's compensation benefits would not be counted against an award under the new regulations.

The fund was set up as part of the $15 billion airline bailout bill passed in the weeks after the attacks. It is intended as an alternative to the courts for Sept. 11 victims. To receive an award from the fund a family must agree not to sue the airlines or other entities.

Just over 350 people have applied for an award from the fund so far, according to the Justice Department.
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