CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks is running out of money.
The 9/11 Victims Compensation made the announcement Friday that it has “insufficient money” to continue paying victims.
“I always had in the back of my mind that my family would be taken care of in the eventuality that a serious illness comes my way because of 9/11,” former New York City firefighter Chevalo Wilsondebriano said. “So this was devastating news to hear that this funding is being cut by 50 to 70%. I just don’t know what to do.”
Wilsondebriano was there when the second tower fell.
“I was actually sent down to the World Trade Center and I was there for the duration of that first day. I did 23 hours on 9/11 and then after that I did an additional 26 tours of duty doing 17, 18 hour days at Ground Zero working at the World Trade Center,” Wilsondebriano said.
Wilsondebriano said he’s lucky the old side effect from that time is breathing problems, but said some of his co-workers have unfortunately died as a result of side effects that came years after the terror attacks.
Nearly 40,000 people have applied to the federal fund for people with illnesses potentially related to being at the site.
Nearly $5 billion in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.3 billion fund. Officials said Friday that any pending claims will be paid at 50 percent of their prior value.
Valid claims received after Feb. 1 will be paid at just 30 percent.
“This is one of the times where we need people, we need politicians, we need the public, we need everybody to really rally and really remember 9/11, and remember the victims and remember the rescuers workers that really pretty much sacrificed our lives to try to do something great for our city and for our country,” Wilsondebriano. “This is a time when we need the victims compensation fund to be funded at least through the lifetime of us first responders and people who were there on 911. I think it would be a great thing for this country.”
The fund is scheduled to stop taking claims in December of 2020.
Members of congress have vowed to reauthorize the compensation fund and said they would introduce legislation to make the compensation fund permanent.
Live 5 News has reached out to our local lawmakers for a comment on the pending situation.