WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump touted the “never forget” mantra Monday as he signed into law a funding extension for 9/11 first responders and others who developed diseases after working at the sites of the terrorist attacks
The fund had slashed its payouts earlier this year to people making claims, but the signing of the bill today will keep it running through 2092, with all the money it will ever need to pay out future claims. Future applicants will have 2090 to file.
“Today we come together as one nation to support our September 11 heroes, to care for their families and to renew our eternal vow: Never, ever forget,” Trump said this morning at the bill signing.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the fund will cost more than $10 billion over the next decade, though it cautioned the cost is somewhat uncertain because it is not exactly clear how much more likely people who were at the sites are to develop diseases like cancer. The CBO also found it can be difficult to estimate how many people will make claims.
To date, 95,000 people have made a claim under the fund, with 80% of those being first responders, according to the CBO.
“Finally, nothing can get in the way of our first responders getting the help they are due and they very much need,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Monday. “It has been a long struggle, but because of the courage of the many who joined the cause, the memory of people like James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, Luis Alvarez and so many others will live on in this law.”
The bill had been stalled in Congress, with advocates, such as comedian Jon Stewart, accusing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of holding it up. McConnell, for his part, has insisted Congress would never let the fund expire.
The deadline for filing claims on the fund had been set for December of next year, and Rupa Bhattacharyya, the fund’s special master, had said the fund would not have enough money to pay all of the claims that would be filed by then. The new law also requires the fund to make up the difference in the slashed payouts.
“This is a momentous day for the VCF and the 9/11 community, and we are extremely grateful for this show of confidence from Congress and the president,” Bhattacharyya said in a statement Monday. “The entire VCF team is ready and eager to move forward into the next phase of this successful program with renewed energy and a reinvigorated clarity of purpose and, as always, we remain dedicated to serving the needs of the 9/11 community.”