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Washington, DC – Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) today called on Senator McConnell to put the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act on the floor for an up-or-down vote. Earlier today, Gillibrand asked for unanimous consent to pass this legislation, but two Senate Republicans are blocking the bill from passing despite a strong bipartisan filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
The bipartisan legislation, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week with overwhelming bipartisan support and has 73 cosponsors in the Senate, would ensure that all 9-11 first responders and survivors who have been injured by the toxins at Ground Zero and have certified 9-11 illnesses would receive their full compensation through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) now and into the future as more become ill with 9-11 cancers. Last month, the Senate Majority Leader gave his commitment to first responders that the 9-11 VCF bill would get done by August.
“Once again, sick and dying first responders are being forced to come here to knock on our office doors to remind members of Congress what they did on that day, and the weeks and months since. I believe we have a responsibility, a sacred responsibility, that anyone in this chamber who has any sense of decency, compassion, or patriotism would listen to our first responders and give them what they need – a permanent compensation program, so that these men and women never have to spend another moment in these hallways again,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Passing this bill won’t stop people from getting sick, and it won’t stop people from dying who are gravely ill. But it will take the weight off the backs of their families about whether their government will stand with them and provide the financial resources they earned. I urge Senator McConnell to stay true to his word and begin moving forward with an up-or-down standalone vote, because the minute this bill hits the floor, it will pass. Enough is enough. We should have passed this bill today, and I hope we can pass this bill with no further delay.”
“The House acted in a strong bipartisan manner last week and passed permanent reauthorization of the 9-11 Victim Compensation Fund. Now that our legislation has a veto-proof majority of cosponsors in the Senate, it’s time for a vote to stand up for the heroes of 9-11,” said Senator Gardner. “The first responders of 9-11 have already given our country so much, and now they are forced to spend their most valuable commodity – time – lobbying Congress to do what’s right. It’s time for Congress to do its job and give the heroes of 9-11 the support they’ve earned and desperately need.”
On February 15, 2019, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund announced that due to a funding shortfall, injured and ill 9-11 responders and survivors will receive cuts to the awards that they were expecting of 50% for pending claims and 70% for future claims.
In the years since 9-11/2001, thousands of 9-11 responders and survivors have become ill and many have lost their lives from exposure to a toxic cocktail of burning chemicals, pulverized drywall and powdered cement that was present at Ground Zero. After years of urging Congress to act, in 2010 and again in 2015, legislation was passed to provide medical monitoring and treatment through the World Trade Center Health Program until 2090. However, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was only extended until 2020 and the money is already running out. Now, thousands are facing dramatically reduced awards and unless Congress acts, the VCF will actually be closing next year just as thousands more 9-11 responders and survivors are expected to be diagnosed with 9-11 cancers.
This legislation is designed to ensure that the VCF is fully funded and will remain open for those who will become ill in the future. A filibuster-proof bipartisan majority of the United States Senate has cosponsored this legislation.