Officials Demand Permanent Funding for 9/11 Victims Compensation to Stem 'Escalating Crisis'

AMNew York - May 30, 2019

by Lauren Cook

Without permanent funding, more than 90,000 9/11 first responders and survivors across the country will be left without financial assistance, according to officials.

Politicians and advocates rallied in lower Manhattan Wednesday in support of a federal bill that would permanently authorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act.

The rally, organized by City Council members I. Daneek Miller and Margaret Chin, was held across from the National September 11 Memorial and Museum a day before the 17-year anniversary of the end to recovery operations at Ground Zero.

“With more individuals coming forward with related illnesses, we cannot turn our backs on these survivors,” said Chin, who represents lower Manhattan. “With the funding for this critical program set to expire next year, it is incumbent upon elected representatives to ensure our country delivers on this promise.”

Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the Never Forget the Heroes Act would guarantee money for the Victim Compensation Fund through 2090. It also would make several amendments to the fund, including an extension of claim submissions to October 2089 and reimbursements to claimants whose payments were slashed due to insufficient funding.

In February, officials running the fund had warned they were running dangerously low on cash and that payments to those suffering from illnesses would be drastically cut. The fund was last authorized in 2015, but since then almost $5 billion of the allotted $7.375 billion has already been doled out to more than 21,000 people suffering from cancers and other illnesses linked to the toxic rubble at Ground Zero, officials had said in February.

Without permanent funding, more than 90,000 9/11 first responders and survivors across the country will be left without financial assistance, according to officials. Since 9/11, more than 2,000 FDNY members and nearly 1,000 NYPD personnel have retired due to illnesses linked to the toxic air at Ground Zero. Hundreds more FDNY and NYPD members have died.

“The notion that the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund could one day cease to exist is unimaginable,” said Miller, chair of the City Council Civil Service and Labor Committee. “The escalating crisis of sick and injured seeking help through the VCF to address their health needs have grown beyond the program’s capacity and must be resolved quickly and definitively.”

Maloney, who also attended the rally, said the number of people to die of 9/11-related illnesses could soon eclipse the 2,997 lives lost on the day of the attacks.

“We vowed to never forget the first responders, survivors, and families who risked their lives and made incredible sacrifices for our country,” she said. “While we made health care permanent, the compensation fund is running out of funds. We need to make sure these heroes never have to go without the support they need.”

Established in 2001, the Victim Compensation Fund first gave more than $7 billion to the families of those killed in the 9/11 terror attacks as well as thousands of survivors who were injured. The fund closed in 2004 but was reopened in 2011 with the signing of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The Never Forget the Heroes Act will likely to be brought up in the House Judiciary Committee next month and is expected to be approved by the House of Representatives. It will then go through a hearing and be put to a vote in the Senate.

Miller and Chin introduced a resolution in the City Council Wednesday calling on Congress to pass the legislation.

Community Pushes to Rename Street in Honor of Fallen Firefighter News 12 Brooklyn

CONEY ISLAND - Community leaders are pushing to cement the legacy of a firefighter who was brutally beaten to death on the Belt Parkway last year.

FDNY Engine 245 sits on West 8th Street between Surf and Mermaid avenues, a stretch that may soon take on another name.

City Councilman Chaim Deutsch is proposing to co-name the street in honor of firefighter Faizal Coto.

"This is where he came every single day to protect all New Yorkers, so it's important to have the street renaming in the area where he served," says Deutsch.

Coto was off-duty when he was killed in an alleged road rage incident last December. Investigators say he pulled over and got into an argument with Joseph Desmond after the two collided on the Belt Parkway. Desmond then allegedly clobbered Coto over the head with a heavy weapon.

Last week, Community Board 13 voted unanimously in favor of the co-naming.

The effort to rename the street now rests with the City Council, which could take several months.