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NY legislators call for permanent funding of 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund

Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Peter

Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Peter King, seen in Hempstead on Jan. 2, are among a bipartisan group of New York legislators who are calling on Congress to permanently fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A bipartisan group of federal legislators from New York has written a letter to their counterparts in Congress urging them to permanently fund the health fund designed to help first responders and other victims of the September 11 attacks.

The “Dear Colleague” letter was written Tuesday after reports that the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund could run out of money before its expiration date on Dec. 18, 2020.

The fund was established “to provide compensation for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes," according to the fund's website. It operated from 2001 to 2004 but was revived through the James Zadroga 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Reauthorization Act in 2011, and again for five years in 2015.

“When we were attacked on 9/11, thousands of firefighters, police officers, federal and local law enforcement officers, medical workers, construction workers, and other heroes selflessly rushed to Ground Zero to help,” read the letter  signed by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D- Manhattan), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) and Rep. Peter T. King (R-Seaford).

“They spent months digging through the pile, bravely searching for remains, and inhaling dangerous, toxic air the entire time they were there,” it said. “Now, right when scientists predicted it would happen, cancer rates in the 9/11 first responder community are rising to new heights and the scourge of cancer continues to ruin the lives of first responders and survivors, some of whom have been fighting these diseases for years, and others who are newly diagnosed every year.”

An announcement by Rupa Bhattacharyya, the special master of the $7.4 billion federal victim compensation fund, that the fund is at risk of running out of money is scheduled to appear in the Federal Register on Wednesday.

Bhattacharyya said in the notice that the fund “may be insufficient to compensate all claims (including those filed and those anticipated to be filed) under the current policies and procedures guiding the calculation of awards.”

She also said that the fund had paid out $4.3 billion on 32,689 claims as of Aug. 31, but that some 6,600 more claims are anticipated, raising the possibility that not enough money has been set aside for the victims.

The notice seeks "public comments on how the remaining funds might be allocated in a fair and equitable manner to claims and amendments that have not yet been determined, with priority given, as the Reauthorization Act requires, to those claimants with the most debilitating conditions."

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