In this Sept. 11, 2001 file photo, firefighters work beneath...

In this Sept. 11, 2001 file photo, firefighters work beneath the ruins of the World Trade Center towers, after the terrorist attack.  Credit: AP/MARK LENNIHAN

WASHINGTON — A bill that authorizes and provides nearly $3 billion for payments to spouses and dependents of victims of the Sept. 11 attack through the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act won overwhelming approval by the U.S. House on Friday.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan) to allow “catch up” payments to “9/11 kids” initially excluded from the state sponsored terrorism fund, passed in a bipartisan 400-31 vote, including ayes from all four members representing Long Island districts.

“I actually cried. I sat there and cried watching the votes coming in as ‘yesses’,” said Angela Mistrulli, 37, a native of Wantagh who led a group of 9/11 spouses and children to the U.S. Capitol to lobby for the compensation two days after Sept. 11 earlier this year.

They're known as "9/11 kids" because of their ages at the time of the terrorist attacks.

Mistrulli, whose father Joseph Mistrulli, a union carpenter, died working at the north tower’s Windows on the World restaurant on Sept. 11, 2001, said she sat in the House visitor’s gallery during the vote Friday, while other members of her group watched from home.

“The families were watching — they have their Facebook feeds — and they were just so overwhelmed with the support that came in for the families,” Mistrulli, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, told Newsday in a telephone interview.

“It was like a validation for this fight that we've been doing for almost seven years,” she said. 

In the Senate, a bipartisan group of led by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced a companion bill that could be taken up before the end of the year as a stand-alone bill, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act or as part of an omnibus bill, Mistrulli said.

“I do hope that our Senate leaders will come together as well in the same passion that the House did in doing what's right for these families,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are co-sponsors of the Senate bill.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that lump sum catch-up payments to 5,364 victims, spouses and dependents would total about $2.7 billion.

The bill that passed Friday would use $2.98 billion from Paycheck Protection Program funds that no longer are needed.

That money will compensate children and spouses of 9/11 victims who received September 11th Victim Compensation Fund money but who were excluded from the Justice for United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act that Congress enacted in 2015.

A 2019 revision of the terrorism fund lifted the exclusion. But that fund still paid many siblings and parents of 9/11 victims more than the Victims Compensation Fund paid to the 9/11 victims' spouses and children, who said it was unfair other family received greater compensation.

But payments to 9/11 victims’ spouses and dependents lagged behind those for other family members, a problem that the legislation passed by the House is designed to fix. 

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