Long-Term 9/11 Funding Bill Moves Closer to Reality
June 13, 2019
The House Judiciary Committee passed the Never Forget the Heroes bill Wednesday that will extend the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund until 2090.
The bill would ensure all victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — and their families — will be compensated throughout their lives.
It now must pass the full House of Representatives and the Senate before it can be signed into law by the president.
The extension would especially help any 9/11 victims, first responders or bystanders that may develop mesothelioma linked to the estimated 400 tons of asbestos that was released in New York City after the twin towers fell.
The bill does not call for a specific amount of money, but almost $5.2 billion already has been paid since 2011 to 22,500 victims, according to fund records.
Another 21,000 claims remain pending.
The original 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund was created in 2001, but different versions of the original law have had to be repassed, mostly in five-year increments.
Money in the Fund Is Drying up
Funding for the current law was set to expire in 2020. Earlier this year, Fund Administrator Rupa Bhattacharyya said it no longer had enough money to pay all legitimate claims. Many victims have been receiving benefits reduced up to 50%.
The continued funding of the bill is designed to pay survivors and families of those affected by the attack, covering all medical expenses. It covers those near the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and those in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Claims include thousands of police officers, firefighters, construction workers, and other first responders who worked in the rescue and cleanup efforts. The fund also includes bystanders who lived nearby.
Many have been ailing and dying of diseases linked to the debris and toxic dust clouds that engulfed the area, stemming from the collapse of the twin towers at the World Trade Center.
Cancers Still Rising
Almost 9,000 cases of various cancers stemming from 9/11 already have been approved for funding. Many more are expected, particularly those related to the toxic asbestos fibers that filled the air of Manhattan for weeks after the attack.
“Passing the bill is a no-brainer,” thoracic surgeon Dr. Raja Flores at nearby Mount Sinai Hospital, told The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com. “I’m glad we’re getting it right. We have to make sure we take care of those guys who ran down there, risking their lives and health to take care of others.”
Flores said Wednesday that he has begun seeing more and more serious illnesses recently related to 9/11. He is particularly worried about asbestos-related cancers such as mesothelioma, which might not appear until 40 years after exposure to asbestos.
“These cancers are starting to pop up more and more frequently,” Flores said. “And there’s nothing more sacred than taking care of the guys who risked life and limb to take care of us.”
Bill Details Will Be Costly
In addition to providing the funds through fiscal year 2090, the bill also will:
- Allow claims to be filed until October 2089.
- Require Victim Compensation Fund policies and procedures to be reassessed at least once every five years.
- Require claimants also to be paid for the amount by which a previous claim was reduced on the basis of insufficient funding.
- Remove the cap on noneconomic damages in certain circumstances.
- Adjust the annual limit on economic loss compensation for inflation.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, who sponsored the bill, said she hopes for a full House vote before July 4.
Maloney also expects no problem passing it with 313 bipartisan co-sponsors.
When the fund was first opened, it paid $7 billion to the families of almost 2,900 who died and 2,600 who were directly injured in the attacks.