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Opinion

EDITORIAL: Reopen 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund for ill WTC workers

A little clarity isn't much to ask for thousands of people who risked their lives at Ground Zero after 9/11 and now are sick. They shouldn't have to make decisions about the compensation they'll accept before all their options are clear.

One of those options - a $575-million deal to settle the lawsuits 10,000 emergency workers and volunteers filed against New York City and its debris removal contractors - was effectively taken off the table by an irate judge who said it shortchanged Ground Zero workers.

Individual payouts could range from a few thousand dollars to more than $1 million. But workers were given just 90 days to accept or reject the deal. Ailing workers, some desperately needing money, would have had to make the call before Congress decides whether it will reopen the federal 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to cover sick workers' economic losses. Anyone who took the settlement would likely have become ineligible for compensation from the fund.

The federal fund, created in 2001 to offer 9/11 victims an alternative to litigation, ceased operation in 2004. That was before many of the Ground Zero workers got sick with lung cancer and other respiratory ailments traced to the toxic cloud that blanketed lower Manhattan. Congress should give this issue the urgency serious illness demands and reopen it. Ground Zero workers shouldn't have to gamble when making decisions about their financial futures. hN

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