President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Friday, July 26, 2019. Trump announced that Guatemala is signing an agreement to restrict asylum applications to the U.S. from Central America.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Trump signs Sept. 11 victims’ compensation fund extension

Dozens of first responders, many gravely ill, would repeatedly travel to Washington to lobby lawmakers to extend the funding

President Donald Trump on Monday signed a bill ensuring that a victims’ compensation fund related to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks never runs out of money, ending years of legislative gridlock as the number of first responders dying of Ground Zero-related illnesses mounted.

Appearing in the Rose Garden with more than 60 first responders from the 2001 terrorist attacks, Trump signed into law an extension of the fund through 2092, essentially making it permanent.

“You inspire all of humanity,” Trump said of the “true American warriors” who rushed to assist victims that day and searched for remains for months after.

The president said that the nation has a “sacred obligation” to care for the responders and their families.

The $7.4 billion fund had been rapidly depleting , and administrators recently cut benefit payments by up to 70%. The bill passed Congress on a bipartisan basis but only after delays by some Republicans exposed the legislative branch to brutal criticism from activists, including the comedian Jon Stewart.

Dozens of first responders, many gravely ill, would repeatedly travel to Washington to lobby lawmakers to extend the funding every time it needed to be reauthorized. Though their ranks shrunk, as emergency workers died of cancers and other diseases linked to the toxic fumes from the World Trade Center rubble, the fate of the funding had never been permanently guaranteed.

Luis Alvarez, a NYPD detective, appeared gaunt and ill when he testified before Congress last month, urging lawmakers to pass the measure to help his fellow first responders even if it were too late for him.

“You made me come down here the day before my 69th round of chemo and I’m going to make sure that you never forget to take care of the 9-11 first responders,” Alvarez said.

He died two weeks later.

VIDEO: Jon Stewart lashes out at Congress over 9-11 victims fund

More than 40,000 people have applied to the fund, which covers illnesses potentially related to being at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the attacks. Stewart, who made the cause a personal passion project, tore into the lawmakers’ inaction when he testified alongside Alvarez, creating a moment that was frequently replayed on cable news.

“Hundreds died in an instant. Thousands more poured in to continue to fight for their brothers and sisters,” Stewart said before the committee. “They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours.”

A pair of Republican senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Arkansas, voted against the measure this month, preventing its adoption from being unanimous. Both cited the need to eliminate unnecessary spending and offset the measure with budget cuts.

Trump did not dwell on that division when he signed the bill, prompted a round of applause from first responders in the Rose Garden as well as his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor of New York City during the attacks and was widely praised for his leadership in the aftermath of the World Trade Center collapse.

Trump, whose real estate holdings that day included some 20 buildings in Manhattan, played up his own personal connection on Monday to the World Trade Center site.

“I was down there also, but I’m not considering myself a first responder,” the president said.

But a number of the president’s recollections about his own personal experiences that day cannot be verified, including his claims that he send construction crews to help clear the site, that he had “hundreds” of friends die at Ground Zero and that he witnessed television coverage of Muslims in the U.S. States cheering the destruction of the iconic skyscrapers.

___

Lemire reported from New York.

___

Jill Colvin And Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Restrictions on unrelated occupants dominates Saanich council meeting

Saanich council sends issue of unrelated occupancy limits to public hearing

VIDEO: Wet’suwet’en supporters protest police action in Victoria

Protesters say at least 14 were arrested by police overnight

Saanich starts reserve fund to enhance municipality’s urban forest

Funds will go to planting more trees support urban canopy growth, outreach

High-rise hotel proposed for downtown Victoria location

A 15-storey hotel could be coming to the Fort and Blanshard streets area

Advocates call hospital parking fees a ‘shakedown’ after learning most Island tickets are waived

Victoria General and Royal Jubilee hospitals among the most ticketed on the Island

VIDEO: Trudeau insists Iran respect families’ wishes when it comes to burials

All 176 people on board the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 were killed

Horgan unveils B.C. cabinet shuffle changes

Premier John Horgan has made three major changes to his cabinet

Dog reunited with Tofino owner, months after being taken from beach

Shannon Boothman ‘ecstatic’ at pet’s return after a tip leads to social media search

B.C.’s first ride-hailing app to launch in Tofino, Whistler in February

The Whistle! app will be available in Tofino on Feb.1 and in Whistler Feb. 6.

Councillor resigns in Revelstoke after colleagues approved 67% raise

Council approved a 134 per cent raise for the mayor of Revelstoke

Rolled-over dairy truck in Abbotsford lost 40,000 litres of milk

Truck removed Sunday, Jan. 19, with specialized equipment to upright vehicle

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. premier talks forestry, service needs with handful of northern mayors in Prince George

Prince George meeting completes premier’s tour of Kitimat, Terrace, Fort St. James and Quesnel

Most Read