Congress reauthorizes benefits for 9/11 first responders for life
December 18, 2015, 12:33 pm
By Bradford Ricardson
A bill to provide healthcare benefits for the 9/11 first responders was included in the government-spending bill that passed Congress on Friday.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act was renewed for 75 years, essentially guaranteeing first responders benefits for life.
“Today we passed a bill in both houses that gives certainty that we will provide healthcare for those rescue workers forever,” Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) said at a press conference celebrating the legislation.
The Victims Compensation Fund, which supports first responders who are too sick to work and their families, was also extended by five years.
Wearing a black-and-yellow firefighter uniform on Friday, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) told reporters the effort to include the bill was “a bipartisan effort if there ever was one.”
“Today the responders got what they deserved,” said Maloney, who introduced the first 9/11 compensation bill 11 years ago. “We vowed we would never forget; today we turned that law into a reality.”
The omnibus spending bill passed the House by a 316–113 vote and later cleared the Senate.
Former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart lobbied heavily for the measure, making several high-profile media appearances and staging Capitol Hill demonstrations with first responders.
The comedian even went so far as to impersonate Donald Trump on the “Late Show” last week in order to get the attention of lawmakers and the media.
Despite being told by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2001 that the air around Ground Zero was safe to breathe, many first responders developed cancers and respiratory ailments from the recovery work.
James Zadroga, the New York City police officer for whom the legislation is named, died in 2006 from a disease determined to be caused by exposure to toxins at the site.