WASHINGTON – The Senate Tuesday afternoon approved legislation that reauthorizes the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) though FY 2092.
The measure passed 97-2. GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah voted no.
The House approved the legislation on July 12. It now heads to the White House, where President Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure.
Under the legislation, first responders and their families claims can file claims until October 2090. Claims that were underpaid due to insufficient funding will be paid in full. Caps on the payment of non-economic damages will be lifted in certain circumstances and annual payments will be adjusted on the basis of inflation.
The fund was created shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. It provides “compensation for any individual (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 September 11, 2001 or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes,” according to the fund’s website.
Passage comes almost two months after comedian Jon Stewart gave riveting testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in which he implored Congress to expeditiously reauthorize the fund, which was set to expire in December 2020.
During the hearing, an emotional Stewart decried the lack of attendance among members of the panel. Many lawmakers have since responded by saying they had multiple commitments that day and could not stay for the duration of the hearing.
Stewart was accompanied by several first responders, some of whom had serious illnesses as a result of their work on and after 9/11. Among them was Luis Alvarez, a former New York City police detective suffering from colorectal cancer. He had been diagnosed with the disease in 2016 — 15 years after spending weeks at Ground Zero searching for victims and eventually the remains of victims. He told the lawmakers that he was about to undergo his 69th round of chemotherapy. Nevertheless, he said that he had no regrets about his actions and that responding to the crisis was his responsibility as a police detective.
But he pleaded with them to continue to provide funding for the many first responders who had fallen just for doing their jobs on and after that fateful day.
“I’m going to make sure that you never forget to take care of the 9/11 responders,” Alvarez told the panel.
On June 29, just 18 days after his testimony, the married father of three sons died from complications related to his disease. He was 53.