It suffices to say that tragedies tend to bring out the best and the worst in people. A populace that’s hit hard by natural or human-made calamities bands together to recover more quickly. Of course, it’s not unusual to see some resort to looting and committing other crimes while the community is still reeling. In both cases, people mostly have one thing in mind: survival.
Tragedies don’t choose when and where to rear their ugly heads. No matter how prepared you are, they’ll find a way to catch you unawares. Such unpredictability is the reason victims must receive some form of aid when disasters happen, as they happen. Compensation programs must last for years even after the disaster as the victims’ lives will never be the same after that.
While getting an exact count is impossible, the U.S. has had its fair share of deadly tragedies, from the Spanish flu epidemic to the current pandemic. The good news is that the victims of several of these events can still file for claims today. Below are some examples.
- September 11 Attacks
Following the terrorist attack on New York and the Pentagon, the federal government established the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF). Its original run from 2001 to 2004 catered to families who lost loved ones during the attack. Later, then-president Barack Obama expanded the VCF two times to cover first responders who contracted chronic illnesses from rescue work during that day.
Then, in 2019, then-president Donald Trump signed into law H.R. 1327, greatly extending the VCF by over 70 years. The law promises to compensate VCF beneficiaries for the years they’ve gotten insufficient compensation. To qualify, you must file a claim by October 1, 2090, which is already a considerable leeway. See this page for more info about requirements and such.
- Flint Water Crisis
Between 2014 and 2019, Flint, Michigan, was at the heart of one of the worst public health crises in the U.S. Up to 12,000 children were exposed to dangerous levels of lead in drinking water after the local government switched water sources as a cost-saving measure. It also caused an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County (where Flint is the county seat), killing over a hundred.
In mid-2020, the state government established a USD600-million initial compensation fund for those affected by the crisis. Under the settlement, 80% of the fund would go to then-children below 18 years old when the disaster happened. The deadline for registration into the settlement program is on March 29, 2021, while submitting the necessary documents is on August 26, 2021.
Of course, only the residents of Flint are eligible.
- COVID-19 Pandemic
The death toll from COVID-19 in the U.S. has now reached half a million and is still rising. Given the lockdowns and strict quarantine measures, millions of Americans can’t work and earn a living. And, all the while, their debts have been stacking up, most of which are now unpayable.
With the nation’s economy falling apart, Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020. It’s a USD$2.2-trillion stimulus package that aims to provide financial aid to individuals, businesses, and local governments left without a steady income. Before Trump stepped down, he also approved an additional USD$900 billion.
Under his successor, President Joe Biden, the CARES Act received a USD$1.9-trillion additional infusion under the American Rescue Plan Act. It also has extended the deadlines for several relief programs that already expired or are expiring, such as:
- Unemployment Insurance – Extended to September 6, 2021
- Tax Credit Refund – Extended to September 30, 2021
- Employee Retention Credit – Extended until the end of 2021
Get A Lawyer
While it’s good to know that these compensation programs are still active, receiving compensation is a different matter. It’s a tricky business that requires going through the fine print in the conditions stated for eligibility. When faced with such legalese, it always pays to seek legal help.
In fact, the programs stated above warrant a lawyer’s assistance to help claimants through the long and winding process. Before starting the claims process, the lawyer will review a claimant’s case and determine if they’re suitable. This way, both the person and the program can avoid unnecessary expenses and inconveniences.
Compensation is the best thing to offer to a victim after a disaster. After all, no one expects a storm or terrorist attack to happen, let alone want one. If the victim’s life isn’t the same after the tragedy, they deserve an easier one moving forward.