Renewal of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, the legislation that provides health benefits for first responders who became ill after the September 11 attacks, has been included in the year-end tax and spending bill Congress is considering this week.
An $8.1 billion measure to renew the Zadroga Act will be included in a $1.1 trillion year-end tax and spending bill, according to ABC7 (New York). Under the agreement, the Victim Compensation Fund will be fully funded through 2021, and the World Trade Center Health program will be renewed until 2090.New York Sentor Kirsten 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.”
New York’s senior Senator Charles Schumer said, “This is 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, passed in 2010, and signed into law in 2011, established two major programs for responders and survivors: the Victim’s Compensation Fund and the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, which provides medical treatment and monitoring. The WTC Health Program monitors more than 70,000 people and treats about 33,000. The VCF provides compensation to responders and survivors who suffered injuries and economic losses because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The WTC Health Program funding expired in October 2015 and the VCF was due to expire in October 2016. Sen. Gillibrand worked to pass the original legislation and has been a key sponsor and advocate in the bipartisan group of 37 senators and 151 House members working for permanent extension of the Zadroga Act.
The programs established under the Zadroga Act are crucial for the many responders suffering from serious medical conditions as a result of toxic exposures on 9/11 and during the subsequent cleanup and recovery operations. Some responders and survivors became ill soon after 9/11 but many 9/11-related illnesses, including lung problems and a number of cancers, took years to emerge. Thousands of people involved in the rescue and recovery effort were exposed to a wide array of toxic chemicals, carcinogens, asbestos, and pulverized cement that were released when the Twin Towers fell. Tens of thousands of people were exposed to toxic dust and other toxins.
According to Citizens for Extension of the Zadroga Act, more than 85 NYPD officers and 130 firefighters have died from 9/11 injuries since the attacks and more than 33,000 9/11 responders and survivors have been diagnosed with an illness or injury due to the attacks, or their aftermath. Many have been diagnosed with more than one such illness, and many of them are disabled and no longer able to work. They suffer a variety of chronic and deadly diseases, including asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and cancers. More than 50 types of cancer caused by 9/11 toxins have been identified. Health experts say 9/11 illnesses will continue to emerge for years to come.