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Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund renewal bill would cost $10.2 billion

Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund renewal bill would cost $10.2 billion

July 11th, 2019 by New York Daily News in National News

WASHINGTON—$10.2 billion.

That's the cost estimate issued Thursday by the Congressional Budget Office for compensating the people who are still dying and sick from their exposure following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It covers the next 10 years.

The number comes just a day before the House is expected to vote on a new bill to renew the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, which is running out of cash much faster than expected.

The so-called CBO score is often only a formality, but many lawmakers depend on the number, especially when considering larger bills.

Advocates hailed the development, and said it should clear the way for passage.

"Now that we have the CBO score, the House should move quickly and send the bill to the Senate," said Ben Chevat, who runs Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act, a reference to the bill's former name.

The bill was rechristened last week as the "Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act."

Pfeifer, a firefighter who died of 9/11-linked cancer in 2017, was instrumental in passing the last 9/11 bill. Alvarez, who died of his ground zero-related cancer late last month, helped galvanize attention to the new bill with his stark testimony before the House Judiciary Committee just weeks before his death.

The special master who oversees the Victim Compensation Fund cut all pending payouts by half and future ones by 70% in February to try and make the money last until 2020. Of $4 billion set aside in 2015, just $2 billion was left, with illnesses and deaths in the program surging.

The new funding would restore the cuts that have already been handed to hundreds of responders and victims.

The House is expected to vote on the bill Friday on what's known as the suspension calendar, where non-controversial bills cannot be amended and require a two-thirds vote instead of a simple majority. With 333 House members signed on as sponsors, the measure is likely to pass, although some might object at the late-breaking cost estimate. Advocates would likely counter that the costs of the wars started in the name of 9/11 were simply added to the debt.

After the House, the Senate will also have to act. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has pledged to advance the bill, but has not specified how. One GOP source told the News he's likely to bring the measure directly to the floor.

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