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Federal deal ensures victims' compensation

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The federal government will compensate people injured in the September 11 attacks as well as the families of the dead and missing, but only if they agree not to sue the airlines under the airline bailout bill that President Bush signed.

"In the midst of the tragedy, there is some good news to report," said Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at a news conference Sunday.

"The federal government will make every family who lost someone or had someone injured whole," said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York.

"If you were a clerk who earned $30,000 a year and you had 20 years left, you'll get a lump sum payment of $30,000 a year for the next 20 years, plus the pain and suffering, plus the pension," Schumer said.

"The airlines had come to us and said, 'If everybody sues us, we'll go bankrupt.' The federal government stepped in to say, 'OK, we don't want the airlines to go bankrupt, but we want the people who need help to get help.' That's what happened here."

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Giuliani added: "Every family member who has either lost someone or is in fear of losing someone should feel at least economic security. ... We can't replace the loved one, and we can't deal with all of the emotional damage that they are going to have. What this bill says to all of them is, the benefits are there. That's the baseline. There will be a lot of benefits. Everyone will be protected."

Relatives of victims may still choose to sue the airlines, but those who do will not be eligible for the federal deal.

"That's their choice, but we doubt very many will, given the generosity of this," Schumer said.

The compensation provision was inserted into the airline bailout bill by Schumer and Sens. Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. The Senate passed the bill Friday.

Families of victims can file claims with the federal government to recover wages that would have gone to the missing and the dead and to receive compensation for the victims' pain and suffering, Schumer said.

The claims are to include economic factors such as lost wages and noneconomic factors such as pain and suffering.

A special master appointed by the Justice Department will review the claims and determine how much money each family will receive.

The legislation requires the claims be paid within five months of the date the application is filed. But families participating in the program must waive their right to sue in federal court.

Payments would be offset by other benefits such as life insurance or pension plans.

• American Red Cross
• Federal Emergency Management Agency

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