Senator Gillibrand was one of five New York elected officials to recently call on her fellow members of Congress to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the VCF.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Five members of the New York delegation to Congress recently penned a joint letter to their colleagues on the Hill, urging them to permanently reauthorize and fully finance the seemingly dwindling Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund.
The repository that was created to provide compensation for anyone (or a personal representative of a deceased 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 run out of money prior to its end date of Dec. 18, 2020, its steward recently noted.
“An updated projections analysis, run using data as of Aug. 31, suggests the possibility that, following current policies and procedures, the VCF may exceed its available funding prior to the currently designated program end on Dec. 18, 2020, although I have not made any formal determination that funding may be insufficient,” VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya said last week.
On the heels of Bhattacharyya’s message, U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-N.Y.) and Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan), Peter King (R-Long Island), and Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn and Manhattan) released a statement and the “Dear Colleague” missive asking their fellow elected officials to co-sponsor legislation to permanently reauthorize and fund the VCF.
“Twice, Congress has come together to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, most recently in 2015 to make the healthcare program for 9/11 first responders permanent. As we near the expiration of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund in 2020, our job is not done,” the bipartisan quintet said. “As today’s notice shows, allowing this program to expire and not fully funding the VCF would be devastating for those with new claims and the undoubtedly high number of 9/11 first responders and survivors who have yet to be diagnosed with a Ground Zero-related illness. It would send a cruel message that Congress is indifferent to our heroes’ suffering. Congress needs to fix this now before waiting until the last minute and putting our heroes through more suffering and anxiety over whether their federal government will stand with them in their time of need.”
According to the special master, the VCF has expended more than $2.5 billion since its 2015 reauthorization; it has more than $3 billion in funding remaining with just under two-and-a-half years left to go.