In a “devastating” blow to the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund says it will be slashing its payouts to claimants by as much as 70 percent because of its rapidly depleting cash pool.
The $7.3 billion fund, which was established in 2011 to compensate victims impacted by toxic exposure at the sites of the 9/11 attacks, revealed Friday that it had just $2 billion left in its coffers. According to the fund’s administrator, Rupa Bhattacharyya, this amount will need to cover almost 20,000 currently pending claims, as well as thousands of additional claims expected to be filed before the expiration of the fund in December 2020.
To provide some perspective on how thinly spread the fund now is, Bhattacharyya noted in a statement that the VCF’s first $5 billion was divvied up between about 21,000 claims.
Because of the lack of resources, the fund said any pending claims filed before Feb. 1, 2019, would be paid out at 50 percent of their original value. Those received after this date will be paid at just 30 percent.
Bhattacharyya expressed deep regret that such reductions had to be made but said there had been no way for the fund to accurately predict how many claims it would receive.
She told NPR that the number of claims had sharply increased since 2015. She said the long latency period for some cancers may be a reason behind the surge.
“I am painfully aware of the inequity of the situation,” Bhattacharyya said in a statement posted on the fund’s website. “I also deeply regret that I could not honor my intention to spare any claim submitted prior to this announcement from any reductions made due to a determination of funding insufficiency. But the stark reality of the data leaves me no choice. If there had been a different option available to me, I assure you I would have taken it.”
Related: New York City's skyline every year on 9/11:
New York City's skyline every year on 9/11
New York City's skyline every year on 9/11
Manhattan Skyline with Twin Towers 2000 Manhattan, New York, New York, USA
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 Smoke pours from the twin towers of the World Trade Center after they were hit by two hijacked airliners in a terrorist attack September 11, 2001 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Giroux/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - SEPTEMBER 11: Mourners gather at Ground Zero during the World Trade Center memorial service September 11, 2002 in New York City. Mourners will attend memorial services throughout the day for the one year anniversary of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. (Jose Jimenez/Primera Hora via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Two columns of light symbolize the fallen World Trade Center towers in a tribute in light September 11, 2003 in New York City. The light tribute that debuted last year returned to mark the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: A view of the Manhattan skyline showing the September 11 twin tower light tribute prior to the women's final during the US Open September 11, 2004 at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The annual Tribute in Light shines on the skyline as a memorial to the fallen twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York September 11, 2005. Each year to mark the anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center two beams of light are illuminated in the sky from dusk to dawn. The U.S. marks the fourth anniversary of the September 11th attacks that claimed some 3,000 lives.
New York, UNITED STATES: Oberservers near Ground Zero listen as the names of victims are read over a loud speaker 11 September, 2006 in New York. Today marks the fifth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. The United States Monday mourned nearly 3,000 people killed in the September 11 attacks five years ago, as fresh warnings from Al-Qaeda bolstered global fears that the US 'war on terror' has left the world a more dangerous place. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Families and friends of victims of the 911attacks surround a reflecting pool during a ceremony at the World Trade Center site September 11, 2007 in New York City. Today marks the sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, when terrorists hijacked airliners and flew them in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. (Photo by Mike Segar -Pool/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: A subway heads into Manhattan September 11, 2008 in New York City. Seven years after the 9/11 terrorist strikes, New Yorkers will remember the attacks that killed more than 2,700 people with the destruction of the World Trade Center's twin towers. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Family members of victims, firefighters and police officers walk in line in the rain at the reflecting pool placing flowers as people gather at Ground Zero during a 9/11 memorial ceremony on September 11, 2009 in New York City. Family of the victims, government officials and others gathered at the annual ceremony to remember the attacks that killed more than 2,700 people with the destruction of the World Trade Center, the crash at the Pentagon and United 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. (Photo by Rick Gershon/Getty Images)
Firefighters surround a reflecting pool in the middle of Ground Zero before the annual memorial service on September 11, 2010 in New York City. Thousands will gather to pay a solemn homage on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. POOL/Chris Hondros (Photo credit should read CHRIS HONDROS/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: A bouquet of flowers is viewed on a fence overlooking the lower Manhattan skyline on the morning of September 11, 2011 in New York City. New York City and the nation are commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan which resulted in the deaths of 2,753 people when two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Security has been heightened in both New York City and Washington D.C. following a terrorist threat about a car bomb. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: The skyline rises over Lower Manhattan on the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks September 11, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. New York City and the nation are commemorating the eleventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks which resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people after two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and one crash landed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
HOBOKEN, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: People attend an interfaith memorial as the 'Tribute in Light' shines from the Manhattan skyline next to One World Trade Center to commemorate all those who were lost on 9/11 on September 11, 2013 in Hoboken, New Jersey. The lights are located at West and Morris streets in lower Manhattan. The nation is commemorating the anniversary of the 2001 attacks which resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people after two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and one crash landed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: The lower Manhattan skyline is seen from Brooklyn September 11, 2014 in New York City. This year marks the 13th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and on Flight 93. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11: The Tribute in Light shines over the New York Skyline on September 11, 2015 in Jersey City, New Jersey . Today marks the fourteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks when terroristists high jacked airliners and flew them in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 11: The 'Tribute in Light' illumiinates the skyline of Lower Manhattan as seen from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, September 11, 2016 in New York City. Throughout the country services are being held to remember the 2,977 people who were killed in New York, at the Pentagon and in a field in rural Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: The 'Tribute in Light' rises above the skyline of Lower Manhattan as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge, September 11, 2017 in New York City. In New York City and throughout the United States, the country is marking the 16th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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9/11 victims reacted with horror to the news.
“I cried. It was devastating,” John Feal, who almost died and lost half a foot while working as a demolition supervisor at Ground Zero, told NPR. “Thousands of people are going to suffer, that are already suffering.”
“Congress continues to put deadlines in, arbitrary dates on our legislation that we now passed a couple times, but these illnesses — cancer and respiratory illnesses — they have no deadlines,” added Feal, who advocates for 9/11 victims.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have since decried the VCF’s inability to properly compensate 9/11 victims and their families ― and several have vowed to introduce legislation to replenish and extend the fund.
“We cannot turn our backs on these heroes ― not now, not ever. Remembering 9/11 should be more than a bumper sticker,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in a Friday statement. “That’s why I will be reintroducing bipartisan legislation soon with Senator Cory Gardner [R-Colo.] and others that will ensure that the men and women injured by the toxins at Ground Zero are never forgotten.”
New York Reps. Phil King, a Republican, and Democrats Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney said they would be introducing a bill that would “restore any cuts to awards, ensure that future eligible recipients are fully compensated, and make the VCF program permanent.”
We cannot allow the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund - which thousands of responders and survivors depend upon - to be gutted. Read my full statement with @RepMaloney and @RepPeteKing on our efforts to make the VCF program permanent: pic.twitter.com/ykfE2BPnBA
Calls to remember 9/11 aren't just slogans. I’m introducing a bipartisan bill to make the Victim Compensation Fund permanent and whole. As death and cancers spike, we can’t abandon our heroes. I won’t. https://t.co/hc7kYyFjzh
Excellent bipartisan meeting with 9/11 victims to support legislation providing necessary funding for Victims Compensation Fund to compensate workers killed or injured on 9/11 or their survivors. pic.twitter.com/jkqwuDjqof
Our first responders have sacrificed so much for our city and country — and they'd do it again in a heartbeat. Congress must join our New York delegation in protecting them and everyone who counts on the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.https://t.co/oiwAl66vv4