Victim compensation bill unveiled

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, on Monday unveiled legislation to create a compensation fund for COVID-19 victims modeled on the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

The bill would establish a review process to provide monetary compensation in cases of illness or death from COVID-19. The Coronavirus Victims Compensation Fund of 2020 would also create a website and office administered by a “special master” in charge of reviewing applications from eligible Americans impacted by COVID-19. Individuals would receive compensation no later than 20 days after the special master determines the level of compensation due, according to the bill.

Vela’s legislation would authorize appropriated funds as needed for five years, with the fund closing one fiscal year after the special master determined no more claims can be filed.

Vela said in a statement that the bill would bring “much needed relief” to those who have been personally affected by COVID-19, especially important given the failure of the Trump administration to protect Americans during the pandemic, the consequences of which will be felt in the United States for years to come.

“The novel coronavirus has drastically altered the lives of millions of Americans. … Scientists are still in the process of determining the long-term health effects of this deadly virus, though it is becoming more and more clear that many individuals will have months or years of health issues,” Vela said.

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com