With the 9/11 Memorial in the backdrop, local leaders gathered Sunday to announce they're on their way to passing legislation that would ensure victims of terrorist attacks and their families will not be forgotten in the years to come.
The number of expected "yes" votes is well over the 218 required to pass the measure in the House of Representatives.
Lawmakers have been working for months to gain support for what's now called the “Never Forget the Heroes Act.” The bill would replenish and permanently extend victims' access to the 9/11 victim compensation fund.
“I was one of the first to get cancer as a female [as a result of working there],” said Ivonne Sanchez, a retired FDNY EMT. “The victims’ compensation paid for all my Sloan Kettering and everything, without this I think I would be, I don’t know, collecting welfare.”
This Tuesday, the act will take another step towards becoming law, as it’s discussed in a House Committee. If approved, the bill would go before a vote in the House, and then to the Senate. Ultimately, President Donald Trump would need to sign it in order to make it law. If not renewed, the fund would expire at the end of 2020. It's currently only paying out a portion of previous awards and the fund gets smaller and smaller each day.
"I got a phone call from two members on Friday and their awards were reduced from almost $5,000 each to zero," said Gary Smiley, of the FDNY’s Uniformed EMT’s, Paramedics and Inspectors.
Supporters believe their biggest roadblock in getting the legislation passed will be the cost.
That number was not released at the press conference, but several officials said cost shouldn't matter.
"We have an obligation to fund this, regardless. The cost will be far, far less than the price paid by first responders and it is our moral obligation to fund it," said Repetitive Jerry Nadler.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, the bill's original sponsor, vowed months ago to wear an FDNY jacket until the bill is passed. She's optimistic that it will happen soon.
"Now, it's getting hot so I was hoping the chairman could do his magic and pass it out of committee," Maloney said a fundraiser event.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney hopes to have the bill become law by July 4, as a symbolic gesture to the first responders it will benefit.