LOWER MANHATTAN — More than two years after Congress set up a $2.8 billion Victim Compensation Fund for 9/11 recovery workers and survivors, the initial set of payouts for first responders finally went out Tuesday.
Fourteen firefighters and one corrections officer were the first to receive long-awaited payments, which ranged from $10,000 to $1.5 million, officials said.
John Feal, a 9/11 recovery worker who has worked tirelessly for federal benefits for those sickened at Ground Zero, said he's glad money is finally getting into the hands of those who need it, but he's not satisfied yet.
"I'm happy to see the wheels of justice finally turning, but there's still a lot of work to do," said Feal, who founded the FealGood Foundation to advocate on behalf of the sick men and women who worked alongside him. "I'm happy, but there were also nine first responders who died in January because of cancer and respiratory illness who weren't able to benefit from this fund."
Feal and others had worked for years for federal compensation for harmed workers and survivors. In December 2010, Congress passed the $4.3 billion Zagroda Act, which created the Victim Compensation Fund and provided health coverage for those who are still sick more than a decade after the attack.
Last summer, after a major advocacy push from 9/11 responders and New York politicians, federal officials agreed to add some cancers to the list of illnesses covered by the law.
Feal, who works closely with Sheila Birnbaum, the administrator who oversees the fund, said nearly 17,000 people have already submitted applications for payments.
For now, responders are getting only 10 percent of their award. The full amount won't be paid out until after the fund closes in 2016.
More information about the fund is available online.