In the wake of the September 11th attacks, California lawmakers spearheaded a program to provide scholarships to victims' families -- but many families never found out about the program or were told they were ineligible.
According to the Associated Press, approximately 3 dozen Californians died in the September 11th attacks, and 42 people were identified as eligible to receive funds.
The "California Memorial Scholarship Program" raised $15 million through sales of specially-designed memorial license plates. The program was also intended to support anti-terrorism efforts. Of the total funds raised, only $20,000 -- equaling five scholarships -- was collected.
Some of the remaining funds were borrowed by Governor Jerry Brown and his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to help ease the state's increasing budget deficit. The loans have yet to be repaid.
The Los Angeles Times reported in May that California's projected budget deficit has reached $16 billion.
Kia Pavloff-Pecorelli, whose son was born following her husband's death in the attacks, told the Associated Press that "she would have remembered hearing about the scholarship." She now struggles to pay her son's private school tuition.
"If you didn't sign up for [the scholarship], it should just be automatic," she said.
The program's claims board said that eligible families were notified on multiple occasions. Spokesman Jon Meyers said they "went above and beyond what I think is reasonable to notify people."
Advertisements for the specialty license plates originally stated that profits would be used to "fund scholarships for the children of Californians who died in the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and helps California's law enforcement fight threats of terrorism."
Following the Associated Press investigation, the slogan's reference to the scholarship program was removed.
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