Rozic Calls for Permanent Funding of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund

Passes Resolution Urging Congress to Pass the Never Forget the Heroes Act of 2019
June 13, 2019

Albany, NY – Today, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D,WF-Fresh Meadows), announced passage of her resolution urging the United States Congress to pass the Never Forget the Heroes Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act (H.R. 7062/S. 3592). The bill, which is sponsored by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), was the subject of a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing this week and passed out of the House’s Judiciary Committee yesterday. Passage of the resolution coincides with visits from members of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (“UFOA”) and Uniformed Firefighters Association (“UFA”) as part of their advocacy day.

Rozic, who serves as Chair of the Office of State-Federal Relations, said: “Our City’s bravest who answered the call of duty on 9/11 and the aftermath that followed deserve better than to face uncertainty over mounting medical costs from related illnesses. As next steps are being determined in Congress to permanently fund the VCF, we remain grateful to the leadership of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and New York’s Congressional Delegation for putting first responders’ voices’ front and center.”

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (“VCF”) was first authorized in 2001 to provide compensation to first responders for losses resulting from 9/11 related illnesses and was funded through 2004. In 2011, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was created to reauthorize funding and establish the World Trade Center Health Program – which has been permanently funded as of 2015.

It is estimated that more than 50,000 New Yorkers have registered claims through the VCF. Earlier this year it was announced that the remaining funding in the VCF is insufficient to cover pending and future claims ahead of its December 2020 expiration date.

Rozic’s resolution was introduced with bipartisan support. Prior to its passage, Rozic introduced FDNY First Deputy Commissioner Laura Kavanagh on the floor of the Assembly. First Deputy Commissioner Kavanagh is the second woman in the agency’s history to attain such rank. Her career with the FDNY first began as Assistant Commissioner of External Affairs where she advocated for legislation protecting first responders and spearheaded citywide fire safety programs.

Several of Rozic’s colleagues including Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, and Assemblyman Michael Cusick introduced the following members of the UFA and UFOA: Gerard Fitzgerald, President, UFA; LeRoy McGinnis, Vice President, UFA; George Farinacci, Vice President, UFOA; and James McCarthy, Treasurer, UFOA.

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway) said: “The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were defining moments in the history of New York City, New York State, and indeed, the entire country. Those who risked their lives without hesitation running into those burning buildings and those who served by returning in the aftermath to save the lives of others, exposed themselves to dangerous chemicals and toxins that have lasting effects. I join Assemblywoman Rozic, and my colleagues in government, in calling on Congress to permanently fund the VCF as many New Yorkers still need, and most certainly deserve, compensation for 9/11 related illnesses.”

Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Woodside) said: “As someone who worked in the rescue and recovery efforts during the attacks on the World Trade Center, permanent funding of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is very personal to me. As an employee of the New York City Department of Sanitation, and later assigned to the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, I worked closely with selfless First Responders who saved scores of lives on 9/11. These wonderful men and women threw caution to the wind and worked at The Pile, transfer stations, and Fresh Kills, while subjecting themselves to harmful chemicals that have taken the lives of many 9/11 First Responders; hundreds of folks are still living with the consequences of that exposure today. My own personal health issues that resulted from my exposure are treated through the World Trade Center Health Program, which is funded primarily through the Victim Compensation Fund. It is disturbing that Washington is using 9/11 First Responders as political pawns. This is not a game, and this is not politics; we are dealing with people’s lives and well-being. I am hopeful that common sense will prevail and that the VCF is given permanent funding.”

Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island) said: “I am proud to stand with my colleagues in the State Legislature to support the men and women who put their lives on the line to save others during the tragic events of 9/11. I urge Congress to make the VCF permanent – allowing the fund to run dry would be an insult to memories of those we lost and those who continue to suffer from illnesses and injuries received in the line of duty.”

Assemblyman Peter Abbate, Jr. (D-Brooklyn) said: “It is my hope that the members of Congress look at this resolution and realize how important the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is for ALL 9/11 First Responders.”

FDNY First Deputy Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said: “Permanent funding for the Victim Compensation Fund means FDNY members battling illnesses, and those with newly diagnosed life threatening diseases such as cancer or emphysema, will receive financial stability for their families. Every first responder on September 11th - and during the long rescue and recovery effort that followed – earned this support by bravely risking their lives to save others.”

Jake Lemonda, President, Uniformed Fire Officers Association said: “The Victim’s Compensation Fund is vital to the financial security of the families of our first responders, and the countless others who selflessly and knowingly sacrificed their health and safety to help this nation recover from the worst domestic terrorist attack since Pearl Harbor. We applaud the New York State Assembly for standing with us and passing this resolution, and we implore the Congress of the United States to stand by their word and pass this bill that compensates everyday heroes for their heroic actions.”

Gerard Fitzgerald, President, Uniformed Firefighters Association said: “When the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center they did not attack one, but they attacked us all. Our firefighters fought back as the first line of defense against those who sought to do this nation harm. Now, these terrorists continue to attack our nation, through attacking the health and well-being of our first responders from the inside-out. Congress must pass this bill and live up to the mantra of ‘never forget’ once and for all with actions, not empty words.”

NYC PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said: “There is no expiration date on our nation's obligation to care for the heroes of 9/11 and their families. The greatest sacrifice still lies ahead for too many of our police officers and other first responders, in the form of new cancers and other diseases that are still emerging all these years later. It is unconscionable that families struggling with loss or serious illness will be turned away or forced to accept less than they deserve. We applaud Assembly Member Rozic for introducing this resolution. Congress must honor its obligation by permanently reauthorizing and fully funding the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.”