NYS Seal For Immediate Release:
May 6, 2002
Assembly Passes September 11th Victims and Families Relief Act
Bill Seeks To Ease and Clarify Process For Accessing Financial Assistance; Calls For Special Master To Allow Domestic Partners To Be Compensated For Losses

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today announced Assembly passage of legislation aimed at helping victims of the World Trade Center attacks and their families access financial assistance. The measure also calls for domestic partners of those killed in the attacks to be eligible for assistance.

"Thousands of families suffered unimaginable pain and loss since the terrorist attacks of September 11th," said Silver, sponsor of the legislation. "This bill seeks to lessen their burden by making it faster, easier and less confusing for them to receive the assistance they need as they try to rebuild their lives."

"The Coalition of 9/11 Family Groups thank Speaker Silver for the concern and advocacy he has shown for our families. We appreciate his efforts very much," said Jack Lynch, vice president of the 9/11 Widows Victims Family Association.

The bill (A.11290) responds to questions that have been raised concerning the interplay between the federal Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act (ATSSSA), which established and regulates the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, and current New York State laws and procedures.

The ATSSSA provides that, in return for waiving all rights to bring lawsuits in courts, victims and their families may seek compensation from the fund for the economic and non-economic damages incurred as a result of the attacks. A special master was appointed in November to assist the Department of Justice in developing and implementing regulations, to review claims submitted by victims of the attacks and their families and to determine the awards. Final regulations were issued on March 7.

Although there are fairly clear answers to some of the questions raised, the potential lengthy delay in obtaining guidance from the courts, together with the mere possibility that contrary outcomes would result, have been a source of great concern to victims and their families.

This measure seeks to provide clear statutory guidance to overcome confusion and uncertainty - thereby allaying the concerns of the victims and their families and avoiding any undue delays that might otherwise be caused in seeking direction from the courts.

In particular, the bill would:

  • Make clear that insurance companies cannot terminate the workers' compensation benefits being paid to victims and their families if they seek assistance from the federal fund;
  • Provide assurances that insurers will not have a lien against the compensation that the victims and their families receive from the federal fund;
  • Ensure that the personal representatives of individuals killed in the terrorist attacks will not be held liable for actions taken reasonably and in good faith with respect to the federal fund;
  • Allow families of those killed in the attacks to commence probate and related proceedings in any court in the state and preclude fiduciary commissions based upon distributions from the federal fund;
  • Clarify that all awards from the federal fund would be exempt from all state and local taxes; and
  • Provide guidance to the special master relating to the ability of domestic partners to obtain compensation from the fund.

The "September 11th Victims and Families Relief Act" is also supported by Governor George Pataki, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.


New York State Assembly
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