The news that Cantor Fitzgerald LP’s nonprofit arm would hand out $10 million in $1,000 debit cards to Hurricane Sandy victims sparked relief and skepticism.

Cantor Fitzgerald, one of the largest independent U.S. brokerage firms, is distributing the cards to 10,000 families through its Hurricane Sandy Family Relief Program. The initiative was funded largely through the company’s annual Charity Day, Sept. 11, when it gives the day’s revenue to its nonprofit Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund.

The company lost 658 of its 960 employees in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

“Cantor Fitzgerald unfortunately knows tragedy and pain maybe as well as anyone in the world and we decided that we had to go out and help,” said Chief Executive Officer Howard Lutnick before handing out cards in Far Rockaway, Queens. “We think the best way to help is to put money in the hands of the parents.”

The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund has given more than $180 million to 800 families and 932 children of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It has also helped those affected by Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 tsunami, the 2010 Haiti and 2011 Japan earthquakes, and now Sandy victims. At Long Beach Middle School, more than 1,300 families lined up for a debit card.

“When in your lifetime do you have the opportunity to give away $1.3 million in two hours to help someone in need?” said Edie Lutnick, the co-founder and executive director of the relief fund and Howard’s sister.

The Robin Hood Foundation also helped Sandy victims with direct aid by raising more than $67 million from the public and at a Dec. 12 all-star concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The poverty-fighting nonprofit has given out about $62 million to nonprofit groups. Some of that aid has gone to Sandy victims in the form of $25 gift cards from retailers such as Target Corp.

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