9/11 victims compensation fund may be running out of cash

A $7.3 billion federal fund meant to compensate 9/11 victims experiencing serious health problems from the 2001 terrorist attacks could be running out of cash, according to a report from the fund’s overseer published Wednesday.

With claims surging, the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund “may be insufficient to compensate all claims (including those filed and those anticipated to be filed) under the current policies and procedures guiding the calculation of awards,” said Rupa Bhattacharyya, the fund’s special master. The organization has requested public comment from lawmakers and advocates on ways to allocate the remaining funds “in a fair and equitable manner.”

The report, which was published in the Federal Register, is “a request for information only” and not a notice of immediate changes, Bhattacharyya added. Any changes would only take effect for claims filed after Feb. 1, 2019.

The 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund expects to process about 5,500 new claims through Dec. 18, 2020, when it stops accepting claims. Through the end of August, the fund had granted about $4.3 billion to 9/11 victims. Grants are dispersed based on the severity of the victim’s health issues.

Bhattacharyya downplayed concerns about a budget crisis in a letter posted on the fund’s website.

“The VCF expended just over $2.5 billion in the two-and-a-half years since our 2015 reauthorization, and we have more than $3 billion in funding remaining with just under two-and-a-half years left to go. There is no immediate funding crisis,” she wrote.

A bipartisan group of New York-based federal lawmakers has asked Congress to permanently fund the organization, providing additional assistance to victims if the organization’s initial budget runs out.

“When we were attacked on 9/11, thousands of firefighters, police officers, federal and local law enforcement officers, medical workers, construction workers, and other heroes selflessly rushed to Ground Zero to help,” the legislators wrote in a letter, according to Newsday.