WASHINGTON – Two senators want to know why a $1 billion Sept. 11 insurance fund appropriated by Congress to help ailing ground zero workers has not been used to compensate those exposed to harmful substances.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and the committee's ranking Republican, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said in a letter to the insurance company overseeing the Sept. 11 health-related claims that they are considering convening a hearing in September.
"Reports that the World Trade Center Captive Insurance Company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on salaries on administrators and over $45 million to private law firms are troubling," the letter said.
The two also said they have concerns about the $74 million that reportedly has been spent on overhead costs and legal bills. The letter, dated Wednesday, was addressed to Christine LaSala, CEO of WTC Captive Insurance Co.
Michael A. Cardozo, New York City's corporation counsel, said in a statement that Captive Insurance Company is an insurance company, not a compensation fund. He said the city has urged Congress to create a compensation fund for injured workers.
"Instead, Congress created an insurance company, and the Captive Insurance Company is obligated to defend all claims that have a reasonable and valid defense," Cardozo said. "We would strongly welcome Congress, as we have repeatedly urged, to allocate funds for compensation without the need for litigation."
The insurance company issued a statement saying it would respond to the letter once it is received. It says it has fulfilled its mandate, which is to insure the city of New York and its contractors and subcontractors.
Last month, attorneys representing thousands who became ill after working to clean up the site while breathing toxic trade center dust went to court to demand the insurance company spend money on their health care.