Cheddar Scoop: 9/11 Victim's Compensation Fund Will Cost $10.2 Billion Over 10 Years, CBO Finds

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Jon Stewart with first responders and survivors of the 9/11 attacks at the House Judiciary Committee hearing. Photo Credit: J Scott Applewhite/AP/Shutterstock
July 11, 2019

On the eve of the full House vote for the September 11th Victim’s Compensation Fund bill that has drawn considerable public attention in recent months, Cheddar was the first to exclusively report Thursday the expected price tag: $10,180,000,000 over the next decade.

The bill — appropriately titled H.R. 1327, Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act — has been subject to attention in the 116th Congress through the high-profile visits of former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, who has lent his celebrity to advocate for 9/11 first responders. The VCF is set to expire in 2020, with many of responders and advocates proclaiming that the urgency and the stakes have never been higher.

According to the 16-page report obtained by Cheddar, CBO Director Phillip Swagel sent his findings to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and Ranking Member Doug Collins Thursday, indicating that the $10.2 billion figure would “pay claims to eligible victims through fiscal year 2090,” and would require “the VCF to fully compensate claimants who have received reduced awards in the past because of declining balances in funds.”

A source familiar with the process tells Cheddar there is high confidence that the measure will be met with both enthusiastic passage in the House and approval through a Mitch McConnell-helmed high chamber.

At an emotional meeting on Capitol Hill just weeks ago, McConnell was presented with the badge belonging to former NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez, a first responder who died just days later. The gesture was made by John Feal and Kenny Specht, 9/11 first responders who left their sit-down with the Kentucky Republican optimistic about its progress.

Feal told reporters, "[McConnell]’d like to see this get done by August, which is way ahead of schedule. We look forward to working with Mitch McConnell to ensure that we have legislation through the House and the Senate by August.”

Cheddar’s examination of the CBO score highlights considerable risks as well in predicting the development of aggressive health conditions. As the report notes, “more than 410,000 people, including 90,000 first responders, were directly exposed to environmental contaminants in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.” The CBO highlights the stark realities of the tragedy amid areas of “considerable uncertainty”:

  • Identifying the number of people affected by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and the number of people that will seek treatment and compensation for injury or death;
  • Comparing incidence rates in the exposed and unexposed populations for adverse health conditions, especially cancer; and
  • Estimating both the number of people who ultimately will be approved for compensation and the amount of their awards.

The VCF is part of the larger James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, and has required renewal of funding every five years. While it’s unlikely that Congressional pay-as-you-go considerations may be up for negotiation in the House, it may be in order to attract the support of some Republican Senators.

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