Ahead of the 21st anniversary of 9/11, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed five pieces of legislation to provide support to 9/11 victims and survivors and their families. Her team said, “This support will help to remove barriers and delays from Victim Compensation Fund and workers' compensation claims. In addition, a highway will be designated to honor James Kennelly, a volunteer firefighter who assisted with search, rescue and recovery efforts.”
"New Yorkers will never forget the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001 – and we will never forget the bravery and sacrifice of the civilians and first responders who lives were forever changed," Hochul said. "As we mark the 21st anniversary of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, I am honored to sign these five new laws that will support and honor those whose lives were transformed on that terrible day."
Legislation (S.6810/A.7425) establishes simplified alternative method for Victim Compensation Fund awards, consisting solely of noneconomic losses such as emotional damages. The VCF will issue a detailed award breakdown and allocation of the award between economic loss and non-economic loss.
Currently, under New York's wrongful death statute, an award issued by the VCF is treated the same as any action for wrongful act, neglect or default causing the death of a decedent. Once an award is issued by the VCF, the personal representative must apply to the Surrogate's Court for a court order allowing the compromise, collection and distribution of the award. The Surrogate's Court is responsible to ensure the adequacy of the award and the proper allocation of the funds to the interested parties.
Legislation (S.6812/A.7426) will require the Victim Compensation Fund Award to treat all victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attack and the processing of their claims equally without unnecessary delay, removing certain restrictions that caused delays for many filers and their families. This bill minimizes the administrative burden on the family, VCF, and the Surrogate's Court by allowing personal representatives of 9/11 decedents to file and process claims, regardless of whether the decedent died of the 9/11 illness or simply sustained a 9/11 injury but died of a different cause.
Legislation (S.9370/A.9922A) provides a presumption for Workers' Compensation claims for any health impairment or death of individuals who participated in the World Trade Center rescue, recovery and clean-up operations. Many of the first responders and rescue and recovery workers have a timely claim for benefits with the state Workers' Compensation Board, but have been denied without cause. Other dependents of workers who died of 9/11 certified illnesses are barred from filing claims for Workers' Compensation benefits because the statute of limitations expired before the CDC "World Trade Center Health Program" certified illnesses was accepted as presumptive cause. This bill helps those first responders and rescue and recovery workers who contracted an illness or died of a certified illness get the benefits that they and their families deserve.
State Sen. Robert Jackson said, "Many 9/11 rescue and recovery workers developed respiratory symptoms and pulmonary diseases due to their exposure to World Trade Center dust clouds. Changes to the Workers' Compensation Law is necessary to honor the sacrifices these heroes and their families made for our democracy and all Americans.”
Legislation (S.9294A/A.10416) allows any participant who became disabled between Sept. 11, 2017, and Sept. 11, 2021. to file a claim before Sept. 11, 2026. If a participant filed a claim in this period and it was disallowed, the application will be reconsidered by the Workers' Compensation Board. This will also extend the time period to Sept. 11, 2026, for filing a notice of participation in New York state's public retirement systems.
Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou said, "I am proud to see that, 21 years later, New York state is still taking action to support 9/11 first responders. In my district, we still have many people developing and living with 9/11-related illnesses. It is our duty to make sure that all survivors receive the support they deserve."
Legislation (S.8273/A.7057-B) designates a portion of the State Highway System as the "Port Authority Police Officer James W. Kennelly Memorial Highway." Kennelly was a volunteer firefighter and Massapequa resident who assisted in the search, rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero at the age of 20. He passed away at 37 from 9/11-related cancer.
State Sen. John E. Brooks said, "James Kennelly served as a volunteer firefighter at Massapequa's East End Fire House. When he was only 20 years old, he made the heroic decision to assist with search, rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero on 9/11. For anyone who knew James, this was not a surprise, as he always stepped up to help those in need. Unfortunately, James passed away from a 9/11-related cancer diagnosis at the young age of 37, leaving behind his family, friends, and community that haven't been the same since. It is our duty to acknowledge the heroism that James displayed during his short, but impactful, life, and I thank Gov. Hochul for signing this bill into law to mark such a significant occasion."