A bill’s chances of passing Congress may be slim, but a bipartisan group of Congresspeople from both parties is fighting for its passage. The Fund for Victims of Terrorism Recovery Act, introduced in November, would establish an Office of the Victim of Terrorism Compensation Fund to collect and distribute money for those killed or injured in terrorist attacks.
Six Republican and six Democratic members of the House and Senate have signed onto the bill. Democratic senators Benjamin Cardin and Barbara Mikulski introduced the bipartisan bill in the Senate, and Sens. Chris Coons, Marco Rubio, Tammy Baldwin, Ed Markey, Susan Collins, and Rob Portman have all signed onto the bill in the House.
The Office of the Victim of Terrorism Compensation Fund would administer the system overseen by the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. The 9/11 Fund was set up to distribute money to families of September 11 victims and the first responders and contractors who worked on the site. The program is currently underfunded, and it may only be able to compensate one-fifth of those eligible. As a result, each year there are thousands of people who have been left out – even those who are “approved,” but still don’t receive their compensation – and a taxpayer bailout of hundreds of millions of dollars is needed.
I also support the legislation because some of the people who did not receive their compensation last year may soon get their compensation, thanks to the upcoming release of thousands of highly requested, previously held piles of personal items, including letters, diaries, contact information, and the World Trade Center flag, among others.
As a spouse who has assisted grieving 9/11 family members to hold on to important artifacts of their loved ones, including the flag that flew at the height of the towers, it has been a great honor and privilege to help them pursue legal claims for payment of these personal property items.
The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund has identified around 190,000 items it needs to transfer to government collectors. The money to pay for this process is now owed to a few hundred families, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Because the artifacts can’t be returned to victims, the only way for survivors to receive any payments is to create a claim – often a very expensive process that requires thousands of dollars in lawyers’ fees.
Tens of thousands of families who have fallen through the cracks are keeping alive the hope they may receive compensation for their property losses. It’s our hope that a cash distribution will be awarded to all claimants in the near future.
We are pleased to see these legislators putting their name behind this legislation. If the World Trade Center flag is worth so much to Americans, why shouldn’t it be in the hands of all the survivors who lost their loved ones on September 11?