July 13 (UPI) — The House voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation replenishing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on Friday.
The chamber voted 402-12, with 11 Republicans and one Independent voting against the measure, which secures funds through 2090.
The congressionally created fund is limited to families of those killed and the injured at the sites of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The fund first operated from 2001 to 2004 and was then reactivated in 2011. To date, some 40,000 people have applied to the fund, with 20,000 claims pending.
In February, the fund’s special master, Rupa Bhattacharyya, said he’d have to reduce payments by at least 50 percent after a record number of claims and dwindling funds.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised the passage of the bill, which was recently renamed the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act.
“Today, we recognize the brave heroes of 9/11, who selflessly came to our nation’s aide during its time of need,” she tweeted. “It is time to ensure their courage & sacrifice is honored by passing a fully-funded compensation fund.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the Senate will consider the legislation “soon.”
“The first responders who rushed into danger on September 11th, 2001 are the very definition of American heroes and patriots,” he said in a statement. “The Senate has never forgotten the Victim Compensation Fund and we aren’t about to start now.”
Last month, comedian and actor Jon Stewart testified before a House judiciary committee subcommittee imploring lawmakers to permanently replenish the VCF.
Stewart complained about how long it has taken for Congress to pass the legislation, which lawmakers introduced in February after it became clear the VCF was running out of money.
“I’m sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic. But I’m angry, and you should be, too. And they’re all angry as well,” Stewart said of the first responders. “And they have every justification to be that way.”
One of the first responders who attended the hearing with him, retired New York Police Department Detective Luis Alvarez, died weeks after the testimony. His death was due to complications from colorectal cancer linked to the time he spent in the rubble at Ground Zero at the World Trade Center in New York City, his family said.