Long Island, NY - December 13, 2018 - Today, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives, urging Congress to permanently fund the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and prioritize legislation to do so at the beginning of the next Congress following the Special Master of the fund Rupa Bhattacharyya stating that current funding “may be insufficient to compensate all claims.” The following are Congressman Zeldin’s remarks as prepared for delivery.
“I rise today on behalf of our 9/11 first responders and their families, urging all Members of Congress to support passage of the Never Forget the Heroes Act (H.R. 7062), which would permanently fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and extend its authorization through 2090.
“Regardless of party affiliation and regardless of which district or state you come from, it is imperative that right out of the gate of the next Congress starting next month that this new legislation is passed and sent to the President immediately to become law.
“First responders who worked on the pile day and night, aiding in the search, rescue and clean up efforts were breathing in toxic debris and ash that are now known to have caused over 50 different types of cancer.
“James Zadroga was one of those fearless leaders. He was also the first NYPD officer whose death in 2006 was connected to toxic exposure at the World Trade Center site. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was later signed into law in 2011 to help our 9/11 first responders.
“Five years later, the Zadroga Act was permanently reauthorized and included $4.6 billion for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund over five-years, which was established to provide compensation for the victims of 9/11 and their families. However, we’re hearing from the Special Master of the fund that this funding “may be insufficient to compensate all claims.”
“Representing a district just over 50 miles from Ground Zero, fighting for the Americans affected on September 11th isn’t just my job - it’s personal. Whether it’s losing a loved one or knowing someone who volunteered on the pile, each and everyone of my constituents - including myself - has been affected.
“Before Congress passed the permanent reauthorization of the Zadroga Act, I vividly recall so many first responders who had fallen ill were forced to come to our nation’s capital and beg for the benefits they rightfully earned.
“These 9/11 responders live not only in New York, but 433 of the 435 Congressional Districts across this country.
“This isn’t just a New York issue, this isn’t a Democratic or Republican Party platform or political football, this is a responsibility we all shoulder as Americans first and foremost - it’s the spirit of our nation and it’s who we are as a people.
“These were the very men and women who in the face of evil were willing to put it all on the line to help save their fellow Americans, who ran into the towers as everyone ran out. It is unconscionable that time and again they have been forced to come crawling to Washington, D.C. to plead their case as to why they were worthy of our support.
It was heartbreaking and sickening, and I hope we have learned our lesson.
“We must pass this legislation at the beginning of the 116th Congress so these first responders don’t have to go through this all again, so they can focus on their health and are not forced to travel to D.C. on their own dime dozens of times for the benefits they have more than earned.
“This past September 11th, 17 years since the attacks, we came together as we always do to remember those who were taken from us on that day. But this year, marked an especially harrowing occasion. By the end of this year, it’s anticipated that more people will have died from 9/11 related illnesses than were killed on 9/11 and over 175 of those deaths occurred just this year.
“Jimmy Martinez was one of those 175. Diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, he went into remission in 2016, a year after the Zadroga Act’s permanent reauthorization. He responded to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, again on 9/11 and came to the aid of so many in the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy. This August, he died a 26-year veteran of the FDNY.
“Just as there were so many who fought for the Zadroga Act that were not here to fight for its reauthorization in 2015, Jimmy is just one of the so many who are unable to continue this fight today.
“That’s why it’s up to us - to fight for others like Jimmy, for those who risked so much for us, but need our help.
“Congress must take action to ensure every family receives the compensation they are entitled to as soon as possible - they have earned nothing less.
“On that horrific day, in the face of the worst of humanity, these men and women were the best of it.
“In honor of them and the families who carry on their memory, Congress must do its job and permanently fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.
“In the aftermath of 9/11 we vowed we’d never forget, and I’m going to make sure of it.”
In 2015, Congressman Zeldin helped pass the permanent reauthorization of the James Zadroga Act, which included a $3.5 billion permanent extension of the World Trade Center Health Program and a five-year $4.6 billion extension of the Victim Compensation Fund.