WASHINGTON — In its final vote before lawmakers left Washington for November’s midterm elections, the House on Friday overwhelmingly passed bipartisan laws that may authorize $2.7 billion in compensation payments to the families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The bill passed 400 to 31, with only one Democrat, Representative Kurt Schrader of Oregon, opposing it. It was to go next to the Senate, which had already begun its campaign-season recess and where its prospects are uncertain.
The bill would direct the cash for use for lump-sum payments to immediate relations of Sept. 11 victims who’ve been barred from receiving money from the U.S. Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism Fund. It was created in 2015 to offer compensation to Americans held as hostages by Iran and their families, and other victims of international state-sponsored terrorism, and later expanded to incorporate 9/11 families.
But some direct relations had been excluded from the fund because they’d already received payments from a separate one created specifically to compensate the relatives of Sept. 11 victims.
“For years, the wives, husbands and kids of those killed on 9/11 were refused assistance from this particular fund, whilst more distant relatives received compensation,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “That is about fairness today.”
She added: “No sum of money, again, can replace those that were stolen away, nor restore the memories and moments that might have been. But with this laws, we are able to further ease 20 years of anguish.”
To fund the lump-sum payments, the bill would draw from unspent money from the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal initiative created in 2020 to supply loans to small business owners who kept their employees employed throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Victims organizations lauded the House for passing the laws with such broad bipartisan support.
“The voices of the heroes lost on 9/11 were heard through their children as they advocated alongside amazing champions on the Hill,” said Angela Mistrulli, who founded the organization Kids Who Lost Parents on Sept. 11, 2001, Fight for Equality.
The laws, sponsored by Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of Latest York, was based on an analogous measure introduced in August by Representative Nicole Malliotakis, Republican of Latest York.
Ms. Malliotakis said that “5,364 individuals who lost family members on that fateful day have fought for 21 years for his or her entitled compensation under the US Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism Fund after being wrongfully excluded.”
“Today, the House finally took a step to correct this solemn mistaken and supply our 9/11 widows, widowers and kids with the redress they deserve,” she said.
House lawmakers have also been under pressure to handle a $3 billion funding deficit for the World Trade Center Health Program, a federal health care initiative that covers medical treatment and monitoring for over 117,000 survivors and emergency employees who responded to the attacks 21 years ago.
The shortfall, prompted by an increase in medical costs and cancer rates over the past three years, means this system won’t have the ability to cover recent members starting in October 2024 if the gap shouldn’t be addressed, Republican lawmakers have warned.