22:46 GMT26 September 2020
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    According to the bipartisan group, this is intended to make sure victims and first responders get “the care they earned.”

    A bipartisan group of US lawmakers have introduced a bill to make the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund permanent, Fox News reported Monday. The proposal came shortly after reports that, due to a funding shortfall, cuts were to be made to rewards for first responders and survivors of the attack.

    Because of the funding shortage, rewards for 9/11 victims and first responders who have been diagnosed with cancer and other illnesses following the incident are about to be cut by up to 70 percent, the report says.

    Nearly 40,000 claims have been made by people with illnesses potentially related to being at the Ground Zero site in New York City, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, (where the fourth plane crashed) after the 2001 terror attacks, and about 19,000 of those claims are pending. Nearly $5 billion in benefits has been awarded out of the $7.3 billion fund, Fox reports.

    The fund's special master Rupa Bhattacharyya says another $5 billion is needed to cover the pending applications plus applications that are expected to be submitted before the December 2020 deadline. Without additional funding, the fund will only be able to pay the pending claims at 50 percent of their original value. Applications submitted after 1 February 2019 would be paid at a mere 30 percent value, Bhattacharyya said.

    If the legislation is passed, the fund will be permanently protected from cuts in the future. The legislation is co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, 2020 presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, New York Republican Rep. Peter King and Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado, according to Fox.

    "We fought for and passed the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund to provide peace of mind to those sickened after the horrific attack," Schumer said Monday. "For too many, ailments and disease from exposure to that toxic airborne brew have taken years to show up and, as the need for the fund grows, the chance it may not have adequate resources to take care of our heroes is just unacceptable."

    Schumer added that "there is no time to waste in passing the bill to fully fund — and make permanent — the VCF so that any 9/11 first responder who might get sick will get the care they earned."

    Gillibrand added that it "should not have to be a fight" to pass the legislation, saying that doing "anything less" would be "shameful."

    "In this divisive time, in this broken Congress, if we cannot come together once again to stand with these brave heroes, if we cannot come together to show America once again that we will never, ever forget that we will not leave our 9/11 first responders on their own, then what can get done?" Gillibrand said Monday.

    On 11 September 2001, two planes rammed the World Trade Center's twin skyscrapers, while another one rammed a wing of Department of Defense's Pentagon building. A fourth plane crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The total death toll of the attacks is estimated at 2,996 people. Following the attack, the administration of US President George W Bush introduced a number of measures, including creating the Department of Homeland Security and introducing the PATRIOT Act, which took away some US citizens' liberties in exchange for heightened security.


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