Trump signs 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund bill for first responders
WASHINGTON – Calling it a “solemn duty” to the nation’s bravest people, President Donald Trump signed a bill Monday to provide billions in health care compensation for police officers, firefighters and other first responders to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“You inspire all of humanity,” Trump told a group of 9/11 first responders gathered in the Rose Garden for the signing ceremony.
Trump praised the police, firefighters and emergency personnel who raced to Ground Zero after the attack that toppled the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and he also referenced himself.
“I was down there also,” the former New York City businessman said. “But I’m not considering myself a first responder.”
Trump singled out some responders by name. He saluted former New York police detective Luis Alvarez, who testified to Congress about the need for the bill that bears his name
Alvarez died last month after a battle of cancer he said he contracted after working three months in the smoke and fumes of Ground Zero.
His testimony “touched the heart of our nation,” Trump said.
Last week, the Senate gave final approval to the plan to replenish the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) by $10.2 billion over the next 10 years.
The vote ended weeks of congressional debate over the size of the compensation plan, which benefits first responders who developed respiratory and other illnesses from the toxic fumes of the destroyed World Trade Center buildings. The compensation fund has been drawn down to the point where awards have been cut in half amid uncertainty over how much money Congress would provide.
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Claims are likely to exceed 22,000 from emergency personnel who worked at Ground Zero after 9/11, many of them breathing toxic fumes that caused major medical problems.
Proponents ranging from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart said the nation owes a debt of thanks to the families of the dead and injured.
The bill became a political talking point after Stewart and 9/11 first responders delivered emotional testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on June 11.
Alvarez, the retired New York Police Department detective, told of his battle with cancer and his dozens of rounds of chemotherapy.
“You all said you would never forget,” he told the House Judiciary Committee. “Well, I’m here to make sure that you don’t.”
Alvarez died two weeks later.