Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and U.S. Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12) and Peter King (R-NY-2) today stood with 9-11 first responders, survivors, their families, and Jon Stewart to announce Senate passage of the bipartisan Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act. The bill to make the 9-11 Victim Compensation Fund permanent passed the Senate by a vote of 97 to 2. Earlier this month, the bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 402-12, and it will now go to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“This bill sends a powerful signal from our nation, from Congress, and from all the people we represent in all 50 states that we will never forget what our 9-11 heroes did for us,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “This bill is for every single person who decided in that terrible moment – when we were attacked, when we were vulnerable, and we were scared – to do the unthinkable: to risk their lives for total strangers and sacrifice their bodies for our country. It is for every person who spent days, weeks, and months on the pile, and has had to suffer physical and mental scars for years because of that heroic work. It is for every survivor who lived in a home or went to school downtown when the government told them the air was safe to breathe. The Senate promised that we would “never forget,” and today we finally lived up to that promise. We will never forget our 9-11 heroes and we will never stop helping them when they are in need – and now, once and for all, they can finally exhale and go home to be with their families. This day is long overdue, and now I urge President Trump to immediately sign this bill into law.”
“On September 11th, 2001, first responders didn’t hesitate for a second when our nation needed them the most. Today Congress made good on our country’s promise to never forget the heroism, service, and sacrifices from 9-11,” said U.S. Senator Cory Gardner. “Permanent reauthorization of the 9-11 Victim Compensation Fund is not just a New York, Washington, or Pennsylvania issue. It is an American issue. The heroes of 9-11 are living across the country, including in Colorado. While this bill will not stop 9-11 first responders from becoming ill, it gives them the support they’ve earned and desperately need. I look forward to the president quickly signing this bill into law.”
“For too long we’ve waited to settle this matter; too many people have put up partisan roadblocks along the way. But now we are here, exiting a dark tunnel to guarantee—once and for all—that the heroes who rushed to the towers eighteen years ago will no longer have to worry about compensation for their families,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “These men and women, many of them sick, some of them gravely so, won’t have to return to Congress anymore to fight for the compensation that should always have been a given. They will be able to go home, attend to their illnesses, their family members, and their friends. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank each and every one of them.”
“Today, the Senate joined with 402 Members of the House in telling the 9-11 community that we meant it when we vowed to Never Forget,” said U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney. “The true Twin Towers of New York are the FDNY and the NYPD, and fully funding and permanently authorizing the 9-11 Victim Compensation Fund is the least we can do to honor their sacrifices. I will not rest until the September 11th Victim Compensation Program is made permanent and we finally turn our promise to Never Forget into law. I hope the President signs this legislation quickly, so we can finally give these heroes the peace of mind they deserve.”
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 without this legislation, 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 veto-proof bipartisan majority of the United States Congress cosponsored this legislation.