Funding Bill for 9/11 Responders Will Be Named After Luis Alvarez, Who Died from 9/11-Related Cancer

The legislation's full name will be "Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11 Victim Compensation Act"

Luis Alvarez
Luis Alvarez. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty

The bill seeking to reauthorize funding for 9/11 responders and survivors’ health care has been renamed in honor of Luis Alvarez, the former New York City police detective who died last month of 9/11-related cancer.

The legislation’s full name will be “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11 Victim Compensation Act,” according to a news release from congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). If passed into law, the bill will extend money for 9/11 responders and victims through 2090.

The release noted the name change was made to honor the “brave first responders who not only answered the call on 9/11/2001 and in the weeks and months afterwards, but also came to exemplify the fight for permanent healthcare and compensation for the 9/11 community.”

Alvarez, 53, died on June 29 of colorectal cancer linked to the three months he spent on ground zero as an NYPD detective, aiding in the recovery from the terror attacks.

Pfeifer, meanwhile, died in May 2017 after eight years with cancer. As an N.Y.C. firefighter, he spent eight months digging through rubble at the site of the twin towers.

Zadroga, an NYPD officer, died in 2006 of a respiratory disease.

Jon Stewart 9/11 First Responder Luis Alvarez funeral
Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

In the weeks before his death, Alvarez testified before a House Judiciary subcommittee alongside former Daily Show host Jon Stewart to push for new money for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).

The VCF experienced a funding shortfall in February, according to the release meaning that until new funds are authorized 9/11 responders and survivors will receive cuts to awards they were expecting of 50 percent for pending claims and 70 percent for future claims.

Advocates want the VCF extended through 2090 to match that of the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides medical monitoring and treatment to responders and survivors, many of whom have developed various disease due to their exposure to carcinogens like jet fuel, mercury and asbestos.

“You need to be covered,” Alvarez told Fox News last month in an interview from his hospice bed.

“I’m lucky to have the health care that I’ve got, but there are guys out there who don’t have it,” Alvarez continued. “In terms of going through the stress of fighting cancer, they’re also fighting the financial stress of the health care. It’s not right. We served our city, our state, our country, and we should be compensated for it. Not compensated in the sense that we want to be rich. We just want the money to be there for our families.”

Jon Stewart
Luis Alvarez and Jon Stewart. Zach Gibson/Getty

Just 24 hours after Alvarez and Stewart appeared before Congress, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously agreed to send the bill to the House floor for a vote. The Senate has likewise vowed to act.

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, chief sponsor of the bill, said in a statement: “Luis Alvarez, Ray Pfeifer, and James Zadroga were 9/11 heroes who devoted their lives to helping others, and it is only fitting that this legislation be named in their honor.”

She added: :Our 9/11 first responders are sick and dying, and too many of them have spent too much of their precious time left fighting to convince Congress to pass the 9/11 VCF bill. This legislation has strong bipartisan support and the votes in the Senate and the House to pass this bill as soon as it comes to the floor. This all comes down to political will and whether Congress is truly willing to ‘never forget’ the heroes of 9/11.”

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