Each Sept. 11 for the last 17 years—yes, 17—we have gathered at the myriad memorial sites across the five boroughs to recall the darkest day in our great Gotham’s history, the loss, the pain, the bravery, the climb back.
And whether we realize it or not, the act itself—coming together each year on that date—is the annual fulfillment of the promise to never forget, the renewal of that solemn vow to acknowledge the magnitude of the tragedy and the might of our recovery.
However, a singular onyx cloud hung over this year’s ceremonies. That cloud is the news that the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund – the reserve that was created to provide compensation for any individual who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of Sept. 11, 2001, or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes – may soon be in peril.
According to a New York Daily News report this week, as a result of an increase in the number of applicants, the $7.3 billion fund may run out of money—sooner rather than later, before everyone affected can be helped.
“Looking at the data more recently, I’m starting to get a little concerned,” VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya told the News.
According to VCF Program Statistics, as of Aug. 31, 2018, the fund has found 20,874 claimants eligible for compensation. The VCF has made initial award determinations on 19,204 of those claims, and has issued revised awards on 5,011 claims due to an amendment or appeal. Thanks to an increase in applicants, the total amount awarded to date is approximately $4.3 billion.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said Congress needs to act.
“While significant funding is still available, it is critical that full funding is available for all who need it in the years to come, and I call on Congress to renew and expand the program,” Cuomo demanded. “In New York, we will always stand with the victims of the attacks, and I will work with the New York delegation to lead the effort in ensuring that everyone receives the fair and ample compensation they deserve.”
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said “the moral obligation of Congress to stand by every one of these heroes who stood up for this nation continues.
“As we near the expiration of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund in 2020, our job is not done,” Gillibrand added. “It would be unconscionable for Congress to once again put cops, firefighters and other first responders through the agony and uncertainty of waiting until the last minute of a deadline to extend this essential and well-managed program. Along with my colleagues in the New York Congressional delegation, I am hopeful we can work across the aisle to do the right thing and get this done now.”
We need to make sure Congress—the people’s lawmaking body—comes together well before 2020 to extend the fund and all the good it does. So contact your elected representatives and demand they do what’s right for those who did right by us 17 years ago on that bright Tuesday morning in Lower Manhattan.