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Bill would expand Sept. 11 victims fund

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Several senators are pushing a bill that would expand the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund to include the victims of the bombings at the World Trade Center in 1993, Oklahoma City in 1995, and the embassies in Africa in 1998, as well as last fall's anthrax victims in the United States, Sen. Charles Schumer said Friday.

"We take terrorism seriously and we take its victims seriously as well," Schumer said at a news conference. "I hope this does set a precedent."

Schumer, D-New York, said he has received full support from Sen. Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, and Sen. Don Nickles, R-Oklahoma, and from a chief Republican in the House, Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma. He said he also indicated that he has spoken to the families of the Sept. 11 victims, and he has received backing from them as well.

No money would be taken away from September 11 recipients, Schumer said. An estimated $300 million would be added to the fund to cover the changes. Those compensated for the 1993 World Trade Center, Oklahoma City, and Africa embassy bombings would receive an average of $1.5 million to $1.75 million per family.

Schumer said the rules on making applications to the fund would be the same for the new recipients as for those currently eligible.

Six people died and more than 1,000 were injured in the 1993 trade center bombing. They and their families received no compensation.

In the Oklahoma City bombing, 168 people died and more than 500 were injured. Each family received $30,000. Twelve Americans died and two dozen were injured in the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The families of those who died received $10,000 and the one-year salary of their relatives.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill when members return from the Memorial Day weekend. Schumer said he expects the bill to be on President Bush's desk, to be signed, by July 4 .

"It's also a sense of inclusion," said Michael Macko, who represents the families of those who died in the 1993 trade center bombing. Macko joined Schumer in making the announcement.

"My dad was killed in the World Trade Center at the hands of terrorists. The date is the only thing that is different. This is justification and validation of that," Macko said.

His father, William Macko, was working as an engineer on the sub-level of the parking lot where the car bomb went off. He was 57 when he died and is survived by a wife and four children. His wife was hospitalized in November for throat cancer.

Michael Macko was recently invited to sit on the family advisory council for the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the quasi-government agency that is leading the process of rebuilding the trade center site. He said that he is thankful to Schumer that his mother now would be taken care of.

"It's Memorial Day. It's important that we remember the sacrifices of the dead," Schumer said.




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