Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today released the following statement after President Donald J. Trump signed the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act into law. The bipartisan bill to make the 9-11 Victim Compensation Fund permanent passed the Senate by a vote of 97-2 and passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 402-12.
“We have already lost too many 9-11 heroes, and sadly, many more will become sick and die in the years to come. But now, because this bill is finally the law of the land, our 9-11 first responders, survivors, and their families can finally have some peace of mind as they continue to fight through their illnesses linked to the 9-11 attacks. We will never forget the sacrifice they made for us, and I am grateful to every single person who helped pass this bill and to President Trump for signing it quickly into law.”
In the years since September 11th, 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.
Senator Gillibrand first introduced legislation to fund a health program and compensation fund for sick or injured 9-11 responders and survivors in June 2010. After championing the bill and negotiating with Senate Republicans, she passed the James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Act unanimously in December 2010. The initial program lasted for five years and created both the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).
In 2015, when the health program and VCF needed to be reauthorized, Senator Gillibrand introduced the James Zadroga 9-11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act to fund these programs. After negotiating with Senate Republicans, the bill was attached to the year-end spending bill in December 2015. The new legislation extended the WTC Health Program through the year 2090 and the VCF for another five years.
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 would receive cuts to the awards that they were expecting of 50% for pending claims and 70% for future claims. Thousands of families were facing dramatically reduced awards, and without new legislation, the VCF would have closed next year just as thousands more 9-11 responders and survivors are expected to be diagnosed with 9-11 cancers.
Senator Gillibrand led the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act to prevent these catastrophic cuts to the program. The bill was named in honor of three 9-11 first responders who passed away from diseases related to their work at Ground Zero. Senator Gillibrand championed the bill and it passed the House 402-12 on July 12, 2019, and passed the Senate 97-2 on July 23, 2019. President Trump signed it into law on July 29, 2019. The legislation is designed to ensure that the VCF is fully funded and will remain open for those who will become ill in the future.
The World Trade Center Health Program and September 11th Victim Compensation Fund run through 2090 to cover the lifespans of all exposed, including the children who were in school in downtown Manhattan on 9-11 and have since experienced, or will experience, adverse health effects that are linked to the attacks. To date, tens of thousands of people from all 50 states and 433 out of 435 congressional districts have needed to use at least one of these programs.