House Committee Advances 9/11 Victim Compensation Legislation
A House committee voted this week to advance the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund until 2090. The vote comes one day after a heated hearing during which comedian and advocate Jon Stewart expressed frustrations with significant delays in the legislation’s passage.
The Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act would reauthorize and make permanent the Victim Compensation Fund created to provide medical care to individuals dealing with health problems resulting from the 9/11 attacks and response efforts.
During a hearing on the legislation on Tuesday, Jon Stewart, a New Yorker and lobbyist on behalf of 9/11 first responders, criticized lawmakers for the slow pace at which the legislation has moved through Congress.
“As I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to,” Stewart said. “Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders, and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress… Why this bill is not unanimous consent is beyond my comprehension.”
Luis Alvarez, a retired detective and 9/11 responder from the New York Police Department, also testified on Tuesday.
Alvarez is currently receiving treatment for cancer related to the attacks. Alveraz explained during the hearing, “Less than 24 hours from now, I will be serving my 69th round of chemotherapy… I should not be here with you, but you made me come. You made me come because I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11, like me, are valued less than anyone else."
The Fund’s administrator, Rupa Bhattacharyya, announced in February that there was "insufficient funding" to "pay all current and projected claims at the same levels as under current policies and procedures."
Administrator Bhattacharyya said all future claims would only be paid a fraction of their prior value due to the insufficient funds and lack of program reauthorization. Without reauthorization and appropriated funds, this issue is expected to exacerbate. There have been 24,000 claims through the fund since 2017, more than in the fund's first five years, during which 19,000 claims were filed.
The current legislation would authorize the Compensation Fund until 2090, virtually removing the need for reauthorization.
The full Judiciary Committee took up the legislation on Wednesday and passed it with a unanimous voice vote.
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