Free Assistance for Sept 11 Victims and Families

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The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants' (NJSCPA) Personal Financial Planning Committee has launched a "New Jersey CPA Help Center" to assist those impacted by the September 11 terrorist attacks with the financial and tax issues they are likely to face over the next several months.

The Help Center, which will run through June 30, 2002, will match NJSCPA volunteers with victims and their families to provide them with up to six months of free financial and tax assistance. In addition to assisting with the application for survivor and other benefits, the volunteers will work with the families one-on-one to develop a financial action plan to address their specific circumstances.

"As CPAs and as trusted advisors, our volunteers are experienced at handling a range of immediate financial concerns during periods of crisis," explained Bernard M. Kiely, CPA, chairperson of the NJSCPA Personal Financial Planning Committee. "Our desire is to offer our expertise to help these families with getting their financial lives in order," he added.

Services to be provided through the CPA Help Center include assisting with:

  • Cash flow planning and debt management
  • Life insurance and federal and state benefits
  • Tax matters
  • Establishment of a financial action plan

"The CPA volunteers also will be helping the families to establish what is known as a 'decision-free' zone so they can be provided with the time they need to make critical financial decisions," said Mr. Kiely. "Basically, a decision-free zone consists of setting up a short-term financial action plan so the pressure of having to make major financial decisions during a period of intense emotion can be alleviated," he explained.

"Our concern is that as people are faced with a range of emotions that are difficult to even comprehend, they should not be forced to make complex financial decisions," added V. Peter Traphagen, CPA, a member of the NJSCPA Personal Financial Planning Committee and co-founder of the Help Center. "Unfortunately, times of tragedy also are when people find themselves most likely to be targeted as victims of fraud and financial scams. We would like to prevent that occurrence and provide families affected by this tragedy with some relief and breathing space."

Individuals impacted by the September 11 terrorist attacks can request a referral list of New Jersey CPA Help Center volunteers in their area by submitting a request online at or by calling the NJSCPA at 973-226-4494.

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