An $8.1 billion measure to extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is part of the omnibus spending bill expected to be passed by Congress this week. The legislation provides benefits to first responders who became ill after the September 11 attacks.
The Zadroga Act renewal is part of the $1.1 trillion year-end tax and spending bill, according to ABC7 (New York). If the bill passes, the Victim Compensation Fund will be fully funded through 2021, and the World Trade Center Health program will be renewed until 2090.
The WTC Health Program funding expired in October 2015 and the VCF was set to expire in October 2016. New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, worked to pass the original legislation and has been a key member of the bipartisan group of 37 senators and 151 House members working for permanent extension of the Zadroga Act. Sen. Gillibrand said, “Our 9/11 first responders never should have been forced to travel to Washington and walk the halls of Congress—legislation this important shouldn’t have needed so much convincing—but after dozens of trips, they finally got the job done.”
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named for an NYPD officer who died of a respiratory illness caused by his participation in the 9/11 rescue and recovery effort, was signed into law in 2011. The act established the Victim’s Compensation Fund to provide compensation to responders and survivors who suffered injuries and economic losses because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program provides medical treatment and monitoring. The WTC Health Program monitors more than 70,000 people and treats about 33,000. Health experts expect that 9/11 illnesses will continue to emerge for years to come.
The senior senator from New York, Sen. Charles Schumer, called the Zadroga Act extension “the Christmas the 9/11 responders deserved: some peace of mind for each and every hero. Their selfless actions in response to that tragic day deserve a lifetime’s worth of care and respect.”
The Zadroga Act programs are crucial to many responders who suffer from serious medical conditions as a result of toxic exposures on 9/11 and during recovery operations. While some responders and survivors became ill soon after 9/11, many 9/11-related illnesses, including lung problems and a number of cancers, took years to develop. Thousands of people involved in the rescue and recovery effort were exposed to a wide array of toxic chemicals, carcinogens, asbestos, and pulverized cement released into the air when the Twin Towers fell. Their illnesses include asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and more than 50 types of cancer.
Citizens for Extension of the Zadroga Act reports that more than 85 NYPD officers and 130 firefighters have died from injuries and illnesses since the 2001 attacks. More than 33,000 9/11 responders, recovery workers, and survivors have been diagnosed with an injury or illness linked to the attacks, or their aftermath. Many people suffer from more than one 9/11-related illness and many of them are disabled and no longer able to work. Zadroga Act compensation and coverage of medical costs are crucial to them and their families.