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

Young bear wandering Trail neighbourhood, keep your distance

BC Conservation says the bruin appears healthy and will likely wander back to its den

Trail council reviewing handicap parking designations

Access improvements coming to park washrooms, Sk8Park

Donation to Trail music therapy program

Money will be used for Music Heals program at Columbia View Lodge

Gathering for Global Day of Action in Castlegar

80 people met at Castlegar United Church, urging all federal leaders to avoid a catastrophic war

Success rates up at Castlegar’s airport

2019 was a good year for the West Kootenay Regional Airport

Feds preparing plane to fly Canadians out of Wuhan, once China gives OK

160 Canadians have asked for help to leave province at centre of coronavirus outbreak

Police search north of Williams Lake prompts warning to residents to stay inside

Officers also warn drivers near Lynes Creek Road not to pick up pedestrians

60% of Canadian workers would take a pay cut for better mental health support: survey

Survey found 77% of workers would leave for better wellness initiatives

Runaway rail car reported on same B.C. train line as fatal 2019 derailment

CP Rail confirmed the incident happened on Jan. 14.

Southern resident orca L41 considered missing and feared dead

The orca was last spotted in August 2019 when photographed in western Strait of Juan de Fuca

‘I am so sorry’: Stolen Baby Bear statue reunited with Mama, Papa Bear in B.C. town

Culprit left it near the Henry Road roundabout in Chemainus with a note attached

‘Critically low’ caribou population prompts wolf cull in the Chilcotin

Itcha-Ilgachuz herd numbers down to 385, from 2,800 in 2003

Off-duty B.C. Mountie takes down would-be ice cream thief

Suspect attempted to steal Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen location on Sunday

Most Read