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House approves $2.7 billion in compensation to families of 9/11 victims

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On Friday, the House passed legislation which would give $2.7 billion in compensation to the families of 9/11 victims.

This compensation had been promised years ago to the victims’ families but has hit several roadblocks going through congress.

Completing the bill was lengthy process which required the federal government to estimate how much money the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (USSTF) owed 9/11 families.

The USSTF, which is in place to compensate victims of state-sponsored terrorist acts, has paid eligible people and families $3.3 billion in three tranches: in 2017, 2018 and 2020. The USSTF was started in 2015.

Initially, over 5,000 victims, spouses and children who had already been compensated by the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund were ineligible for compensation from USSTF. That led to inconsistencies in compensation payouts for several families. Congress resolved this issue in 2019 by deeming these families eligible to receive funding under the USSTF program.

In spite of these families now being eligible, the issues caused meant that they did not receive any compensation in 2017 and 2018. Congress tasked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with estimating the amount owed for backdated payments.

In August 2021, the GAO estimated that $2.7 billion was still owed to the families, and the bill passed today promised to deliver that amount.

Rep. Jim Jordan, who is the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said during the bill debate that Democrats had waited far too long to make good on the money still owed to 9/11 victims.

“There are potential solutions to this problem that we should have put forth earlier. Unfortunately, because Chairman Nadler has declined to allow the Judiciary Committee to consider these other possibilities, we’re left with just the bill before us today,” Jordan said.

Jordan also paid tribute to GOP lawmakers Nicole Malliotakis of New York and Chris Smith of New Jersey who he said kept the pressure on The Democrats to pass the bill.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) decided against responding to Jordan and said that “catchup” payments at the USSTF will be taken from Covid-era funds which are no longer required. These funds were initially in place to assist small businesses with their overheads. 

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