NEW YORK – In the month since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, nearly $900 million has been donated to help those who lost someone.
But many victims' families have yet to receive a dime – or even a phone call.
That's left people wondering just what exactly is happening to all the money flooding in, and why some of the 140 charities and agencies involved aren't keeping victims better informed.
"I haven't heard from anybody," said Jimmy Alario, whose wife was killed in the disaster. "Zero, from all the agencies. … You tend to say to yourself, 'I'm not ever going to see any of that money.' … When I see it, I'll believe it."
Since he appeared on Fox News Channel's The O’Reilly Factor on Oct. 9, Alario has heard from both the Red Cross and the United Way.
But there are other grieving people who haven't gotten word – or help.
"People shouldn't have to ask for their money," Susan Ferguio, whose husband also died in the attacks. "These agencies have a duty and an obligation to make sure they find the people who need the aid."
Ferguio, too, hadn't heard or received anything until after she appeared on The Factor.
"I'm pretty much just trying to get through every day," she said. "I don't have the time or the energy to call and try to get money."
Some say part of the delay stems from the lack of centralization and inter-agency cooperation in the donation process.
"There's a problem with the different groups being able to work together and coordinate things," said Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a watchdog organization for non-profit agencies. "It's unfortunate that there's not more cooperation."
A spokesman from the American Red Cross agreed.
"Coordination is the key," said Chris Thomas of the Red Cross. "If you bring all the organizations together and coordinate and are open and accountable, then you hopefully would not let anyone slip through the cracks. The question is, have we done enough?"
Thomas said he thinks the Red Cross has. In the two weeks since the organization set up its "Gift Program" – which sends donation checks to those who lost family in the attacks – it has given out $28 million of the $100 million received so far for the fund, he said.
"The Red Cross is doing all we can," he said. "We're calling every single family … I can't answer what other charities are doing."
Borochoff said that the United Way – whose funds go to almost 100 different non-profit agencies – hasn't yet formed an allocation committee to help determine how contributions for the disaster should be distributed.
"That's going to really slow them down," he said.
The United Way did not return calls seeking comment.
The magnitude of the particular crisis – and the number of donations that poured in immediately afterwards – have also contributed to the delays in distributing funds to the appropriate people.
"They got all this money so quickly," Borochoff said of the charities. "Now they have to figure out what to do with it."
Thomas said the Red Cross has made about 5,000 phone calls trying to contact victims' families, sent out about 1,200 monetary gifts and run ads on television and in major newspapers urging people to call them at 1-877-746-4989.
"If somebody has a need and we haven't been able to contact them, we ask that they please contact us," he said. "We're going to try to continue to get better and do more."
Kurt Foster, 30, whose wife Claudia died in the catastrophe, said he didn't receive any money from the Red Cross or the United Way until after he appeared on The Factor. Though the Red Cross did make an initial call, they didn't phone back to follow up, according to Foster.
"So I called a little over a week after and the woman said, 'We've got you in the computer – when we get to it, we'll get to it,'" he said.
Since his appearance on Fox News Channel, Foster said the Red Cross has been very generous – sending him a check for $19,000 through overnight mail. But he's worried about the other people who haven't gotten publicity.
"If I didn't go on TV, I would have never heard anything," Foster said. "They helped me out a lot, but what happens to the other 6,000 people who don't go on TV?"