The House passed legislation on Friday to provide $2.7 billion in compensation to the families of 9/11 victims, money that had been promised years ago but had been held up after several years of delay in Congress.
The bill is the result of a lengthy process that required the federal government to estimate how much money the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (USSTF) owed 9/11 families. That fund, which compensates victims of state-sponsored terrorist acts, was started in 2015 and has paid eligible people and families $3.3 billion in three tranches: in 2017, 2018 and 2020.
Initially, more than 5,000 victims, spouses and children who had already been paid by the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund were not eligible to receive compensation from the USSTF. That led to disparities in compensation payouts for some families. Congress fixed the problem in 2019 by granting those people eligibility under the USSTF program.
While these people are now eligible, they had missed out on payments delivered in 2017 and 2018. To address that problem, Congress asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to estimate the amount owned for missing those past payments.
More than a year ago, in August 2021, the GAO estimated that $2.7 billion was still owed, and the bill passed today provides that amount.
During debate, Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said 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,” said Jordan, R-Ohio. “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 also credited two Republican lawmakers – Nicole Malliotakis of New York and Chris Smith of New Jersey – for keeping pressure on lawmakers to pass the bill.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., who chairs the Judiciary Committee, ignored that jibe and noted that the money to pay for victims’ “catchup” payments at the USSTF comes from funds no longer needed to implement the COVID-era Paycheck Protection Program that provided grants to help small businesses make their payroll.
Despite Republican complaints about how long it took to bring up legislation, Jordan agreed that the bill would “help remedy that inequity” that 9/11 family members have faced. Most Republicans voted for the bill, and it passed easily in a 400-31 vote.