A funeral for first responder Luis Alvarez is being held Wednesday, just days after his powerful congressional testimony on compensating individuals with health problems related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Alvarez, 53, died Saturday from complications of cancer linked to the time he spent with other first responders at Ground Zero.
Following the news of his death, several lawmakers have called on Congress to permanently allocate money to a fund that compensates survivors and responders affected by the 2001 attacks.
“Detective Alvarez lost his fight against cancer, but his fight for 9/11 responders and survivors continues. He dedicated his life to protecting others and advocating on behalf of those ailing after the attacks,” New York Rep. Jerry Nadler said.
A retired NYPD bomb squad detective, Alvarez testified in Washington earlier this month about his 9/11-related medical issues and appealed for Congress to replenish the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund — expected to expire by 2020.
Many lawmakers on the House panel did not show up for the Congressional hearing, sparking a fiery speech from comedian and fund proponent Jon Stewart.
A group of 9/11 first responders met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this month to push for the passage of a measure to extend compensation funding. Participants said McConnell committed to holding a vote.
One of the responders said he gave Alvarez’s police badge to McConnell during the meeting.
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 McConnell indicated that Congress would address the fund.