9/11 Relatives to Get Second Shot at Scholarships

Juliet Williams, Associated Press

Relatives of Californians who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks will get a second chance to apply for college scholarships under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown after investigations found that the state mishandled the program.

Brown on Friday announced signing SB384 by Democratic Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and Republican Sen. Ted Gaines. The bill reopens the application process until July 2016 for a scholarship program funded through the sale of specialty memorial license plates.

The legislation arose after an investigation by The Associated Press and a subsequent state audit found the 9/11 Memorial Scholarship Program was poorly administered and that state officials failed to notify many of those who were eligible before the application deadline.

The scholarship program ran from 2002 to 2005 and was funded by those who bought and renewed more than 200,000 of the memorial license plates.

The program raised about $16.5 million, and up to 15 percent of that amount, or nearly $2.5 million, was to go for college scholarships for survivors of 9/11 victims. Yet the AP found that just $21,381 had been distributed to the children and spouses of the three dozen California residents killed in the crashes of four hijacked airliners, all bound for California.

“We sold special license plates so the children of victims in that horrible terrorist attack could have help paying for college, but many eligible children didn’t even receive notification about the scholarship,” Gaines said in a statement. “It was an inexcusable error that we had to rectify.”

SB384 requires the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board to identify those who are eligible to apply for the scholarships and notify them in writing by July 1, 2015. Candidates would then have until July 1, 2016, to apply for the scholarships of up to $5,000 each.

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