Every day we hear stories about how today’s heroes — doctors, nurses, government service providers, cleaning crews, grocery store clerks and other “essential” workers — risk their health to make sure the rest of us can be as safe as possible during the coronavirus pandemic. But we hear other stories, too, about how some of these workers get sick and die from the virus they’re fighting against. With the COVID-19 pandemic far from over, now is the time for us to consider what can and should be done for the families these heroes leave behind.
Setting up a compensation fund for these families is an idea that deserves serious discussion. New York City’s current comptroller, Scott Stringer, recently argued in favor of a COVID-19 compensation fund in an op-ed in the New York Daily News, citing the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF) as the model to emulate.
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, Congress created the VCF to dispense $7 billion to first responders, survivors and anyone who was hurt or killed in the attack or who became ill because of the debris in the areas around the site. This original VCF closed in 2004 but many people continued to get sick and die in the years following the attacks. The fund was reactivated in 2011 as part of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named for the police detective who developed black lung disease due to exposure at Ground Zero. The VCF has now been extended to 2090, which means 9/11 responders and their families won’t have to worry if they’ll receive compensation for their sacrifice.
Today, in a COVID-19 world, we have a new set of responders. Police, firefighters and EMTs are again among them but so are thousands of others who perform essential work and cannot quarantine. The children and spouses of those who die responding to the pandemic deserve compensation for their loss. Maybe if we start now, a COVID-19 relief fund can be established without years of political back and forth over budgeting and debate over the value of these heroes’ lives.
The attorneys of Barasch & McGarry represent 9/11 responders and survivors. We believe in fair treatment of those who pull society through difficult times, whether it’s 9/11 or COVID-19. To speak with a New York attorney, call at [ln::phone] or contact us online. Initial consultations are free.