Feb. 16 (UPI) -- After a surge in claims over the past year, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is reducing payments by at least 50 percent, an official with the organization said.
The fund's special master, Rupa Bhattacharyya, said Friday the reductions will be applied to all claims still pending, regardless of when they're filed. Those already filed will be reduced by 50 percent and those filed going forward will face a 70 percent reduction.
Bhattacharyya said a record number of claims in 2018, particularly in the previous few months, necessitated the changes.
"I am painfully aware of the inequity of the situation," she said. "I also deeply regret that I could not honor my intention to spare any claim submitted prior to this announcement from any reductions made due to a determination of funding insufficiency."
The congressionally created fund is limited to families of those killed and the injured at the sites of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The fund first operated from 2001 to 2004 and was then reactivated in 2011. To date, some 40,000 people have applied to the fund, with 20,000 claims pending.
Bhattacharyya said the fund has dispersed some $5 billion of the $7.37 billion fund.
"This is devastating news to the thousands of sick and injured 9/11 responders and survivors who were promised, and have been counting on, being fully compensated for the losses they have suffered," the lawmakers said in a joint statement.