Editorial: Zadroga Act must be renewed

Nov 19, 2015
In The News

Some observers have referred to last week’s murderous attacks in Paris as “France’s 9/11.” While we can debate whether the ISIS slaughter on Friday is exactly on point with America’s own devastating bout with Islamic terrorists back in 2001, which killed 3,000 people and toppled the iconic Twin Towers, the reference should stoke the embers of shame for many on Capitol Hill.

Oct. 1 brought the expiration of a federal law known as the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The Zadroga Act, named for a New York City policeman who responded to Ground Zero, had provided more than $4 billion to fund medical treatment and health monitoring for emergency responders who assisted at the World Trade Center. Zadroga himself had died in 2006 from a respiratory illness attributed to the toxins he breathed in at that time. According to Sen. Marco Rubio’s office, the program named for him provides medical care to 33,000 first-responders and survivors suffering from a 9/11-related illness, while another 72,000 of them receive screenings for cancers and other diseases discovered in 9/11 victims. The program has participants in all 50 states, and in 433 of the 435 congressional districts, Rubio’s staff notes.

Continuing those services, however, has been jeopardized by the Zadroga Act’s expiration. Proponents want the law made permanent, not just extended, and it’s estimated the health aspect of the program — there is a related but separate victims’ compensation fund under the law — could cost $400 million a year. Surely Congress can afford that much to help those who selflessly rushed to the aid and comfort of the victims hit hardest on New York City’s darkest day.