Congressional lawmakers and 2020 presidential hopefuls quickly responded to the news of the death of Luis Alvarez — a retired NYPD bomb squad detective who testified for Congress to appeal for replenishing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Twitter Saturday, “We mourn the loss of Luis Alvarexz, a champion for the health of 9/11 first responders, and one of the selfless men and women who searched for survivors at Ground Zero.”
The Vermont Democrat added, “We must build a society where we take care of each other and treat health care as a human right.”
Rep. Pete King of New York tweeted his “thoughts and prayers with family and friends” of the 9/11 hero. King said he was scheduled to visit Alvarez in hospice Sunday. “Lou Alvarez personified America’s heart and soul.” Alvarez entered end-of-life hospice care last week.
Rep. Jerry Nadler echoed those sentiments on Twitter, writing, “Det. Alvarez lost his fight against cancer, but his fight for 9/11 responders and survivors continues.” Nadler noted that “it is time for Congress to honor his sacrifice.
The fund Alvarez and other responders fought for was created months after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Congress and President Barack Obama agreed in 2010 to pay medical costs for first responders who have since been diagnosed with illnesses and cancers related to breathing in the air at Ground Zero. Congress and Obama also reopened the fund and set aside $2.7 billion to pay victims. In 2012, the government determined that cancers can be compensated as part of the fund.
It wasn’t nearly enough money, however, and in 2015 Congress added $4.6 billion in funding, along with new controls and limits on some payments. The special master who administers the fund anticipates that total payouts for claims filed before the measure expires in 2020 could be far higher: $11.6 billion, if a current uptick in claims — largely caused by an increase in serious illnesses and deaths — continues.
The current proposal to permanently extend the fund would authorize it through 2089. It has plenty of support in the House, where it passed the Judiciary Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that Congress would address the fund.