New York, NY – Union members were out in full force on Wednesday near the 9/11 Memorial Park to rally in support of the Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act, a piece of legislation that would extend financial benefits to survivors and first responders who lived, worked, volunteered or went to school near Ground Zero. The recompense would also help their family members.
While some first responders were awarded from the Victims Compensation Fund, students, educators and support staff at nearby schools have yet to see any assistance from the bill, which is due to expire on December 18, 2020.
Students, teachers, principals, public safety agents, cafeteria workers and school bus operators were all back in Lower Manhattan a month after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Council Member Mark Levine pointed out that Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] officials had declared it was safe to return.
“They were answering the call just four weeks after 9/11,” Levine said. “Today, the city has not prepared an accounting of those staff and students, we don’t have a comprehensive list of who they are, and we have not communicated to them to let them know the health risks, that we understand that are very real, we have not let them know the services and support that are available to them as people who were at risk in these dangerous days following 9/11.”
If extended, the VCF will force the city to make an accounting of the people who are at risk of 9-11-related diseases like cancer, according to Levine.
Mark Cannizzaro, head of the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators Local 1 AFSA, said advocating for the VCF is “personal.’
“I lost my cousin firefighter Brian Cannizzaro across the street on 9/11,” the CSA president said, as fellow CSA members held up green, orange and white signs. “To think that there are families that are not being compensated as they should is just unconscionable. We support this bill — this compensation fund 100 percent.”
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, agreed that the bill should be renewed to help those who have yet to be compensated.
“Something is terribly wrong with Washington to make the survivors of 9/11 scrounge for help,” Mulgrew said. “Congress and the White House need to hear the voices of those who are suffering and do what’s right – time is running out.”
Time is, indeed, running out. Before the bill can get through Congress it must be cost-analyzed by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. And, according to U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, lead sponsor of the House bill, that figure must be sent to the members of the House of Representatives before a June 11, hearing so that the act can be voted on.
She hopes to get the bill passed by early July.