AFSCME President Lee Saunders is urging Congress to pass legislation that would ensure permanent funding of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).
The VCF was created to support the thousands of first responders and 9/11 survivors who became ill at Ground Zero following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Exposure to toxic chemicals and pulverized materials, as well as at the Pentagon and the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, crash sites, has led many to develop respiratory diseases, cancer and other ailments.
“It is unconscionable that those who were injured or have become ill responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks should receive anything less than the full compensation they deserve,” Saunders said in a statement Monday. “They were there for us at Ground Zero; now, we need to be there for them. AFSCME supports this bipartisan legislation, and we urge Congress to take it up and pass it immediately.”
Earlier this month, the VCF announced cuts to compensation amounts of up to 50 percent for pending claims and 70 percent for future claims. Although Congress relaunched the VCF with more than $7 billion to cover claims through 2020, $5 billion of it has already been given to more than 20,000 survivors.
This means that thousands of first responders and survivors facing life-threatening illnesses won’t receive their expected VCF compensation amounts unless Congress acts.
The bipartisan “Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act” was introduced Monday by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer of New York and Cory Gardner of Colorado, as well as representatives Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Peter King of New York.
It would ensure that 9/11 first responders and survivors who have certified 9/11 illnesses receive their full compensation now and in the future.
“Our nation’s first responders answer the call each and every day,” Saunders said. “When disaster strikes, they put themselves in harm’s way to protect their neighbors. For their courage and sacrifice in service to our communities, they have earned the nation’s unwavering respect.”
AFSCME is the union of thousands of EMS and first responders across the nation, including in New York City.