The U.S. Senate passed on July 23 a bill to permanently fund compensation for victims and first responders of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Named the “Never Forget the Heroes Act,” the bill extends the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund through 2090. The House passed the bill earlier this month, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law.
The bill was approved 97-2.
About 10,000 first responders and victims have been diagnosed with Sept. 11-related cancer, according to Dr. Michael Crane at Mount Sinai Hospital. At least 2,000 deaths are also attributed with Sept. 11 illnesses and disease.
“On behalf of our firefighters and first responders that came across the nation to help us in New York City, we are urging our senators to step up and vote yes for the permanent authorization,” said George Farinacci, vice president of the city’s Uniformed Fire Officers Association, before the vote. “Over the weekend, the NYPD lost three of their members related to 9/11 disease. This is something that will continue to happen.”
The bill was originally stalled in the Senate when Republican senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah raised concerns about cost and oversight. An amendment was added that would offset the costs of the fund with cuts to Medicaid.
The bill was renamed (“The Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act”) to honor late FDNY firefighter Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez, the late NYPD detective who died June 29. Alverez was a parishioner of Immaculate Conception in Astoria. Both men had Stage 4 cancer linked to their time working on clean-up efforts at Ground Zero.
Alvarez’s passing came just weeks after he testified before the House Judiciary Committee to renew the compensation fund, which is set to expire in 2020. Pfeifer, who died in 2017, also lobbied for the compensation fund.
“We are very proud of our brother. And we’re very proud that his name is on the bill. And we hope that he is in peace. And we hope this takes care of the many first responders,” Philip Alvarez, Luis’s brother, told the Post following the vote. “We hope that not a penny of that money will ever need to be used — because if it’s used that means that somebody else gets sick, and we don’t want that.”