Gilli calls for perm 9/11 fund
The fight for the health of the dwindling federal 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund — and the scores of survivors it helps every day — has begun.
On Friday, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill that would “permanently reauthorize and fund” the VCF, which would remove its 2020 expiration date and ensure everyone sickened by the toxins that swirled around Ground Zero will receive equal assistance.
“We simply cannot turn our backs on our 9/11 heroes and let the Victim Compensation Fund expire,” Gillibrand said Friday. “Anything less would send a cruel message to our heroes and their families that Congress is shrugging their shoulders at their suffering.”
Other Senate co-sponsors include Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) introduced the same bill in the House of Representatives. Other House sponsors include Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) and Peter King (R-New York).
The bill comes about a week after the VCF expressed concerns the $7.3 billion earmarked for the fund will run out before the deadline ends.
Over the last year, fund organizers have seen a 36% increase in compensation claims from survivors, as well as a 94% jump in “deceased claims” from family members of those who died of a 9/11related illness. Also this year, the World Trade Center Health Program, which Congress fully funded in 2015, reached over 10,000 cases.
Survivor advocates are concerned that, as the money peters out, those who file for compensation from now until the end of the term will get less than those who filed earlier with the same problems.
Rupa Bhattacharyya, the VCF special master, announced on Oct. 2, that the money set aside for survivors “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.”