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U.S. to slash payouts from 9/11 victims fund

The special master overseeing a U.S. government fund to compensate victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on Friday said future awards will be significantly reduced, typically by at least 50 percent, because the fund is running short of money.

Rupa Bhattacharyya, the special master, said the reduction in payouts from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is necessary because the $2.375 billion remaining in the $7.375 billion fund is not enough to compensate the thousands of additional eligible victims and family members.

“I am painfully aware of the unfairness of this plan,” Bhattacharyya said on a conference call with reporters. “It is the best that we could do.”

Roughly $5 billion has been awarded on more than 21,000 claims, about three-quarters of which came from New York. Bhattacharyya said the fund would have needed to be $12 billion, instead of $7.375 billion, to compensate everyone fully.

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Nearly 3,000 people died on Sept. 11, 2001 when airplanes hijacked by al Qaeda crashed into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon outside Washington, and a Pennsylvania field.

The fund opened in late 2011 for first responders including police officers and firefighters; cleanup and construction crews; and people who lived, worked or went to school near the attacks. A similar fund ended operations seven years earlier.

Nearly 40,000 compensation claims have been filed in the last seven years, but half were filed in 2017 and 2018. Thousands more are expected.

CONTINUE @ REUTERS