People who worked around Ground Zero and the Fresh Kills Landfill, where debris from the World Trade Center was taken, continue to develop illnesses 14 years after the terrorist attacks.
WASHINGTON — The long, hard fight to reauthorize funds for 9/11 survivors is finally coming to an end.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made public must-pass legislation that includes funding for the Zadroga Act Tuesday night. The bill includes near-permanent extension of the health care program for first responders and others suffering from long-term health problems, according to lawmakers, and a five-year, $4.6 billion extension of the victims compensation fund that helps first responders and their families meet ends meet when they can't work or die from their health problems.
“This agreement is incredible news for our 9/11 heroes and their families, and it is a testament to the extraordinary power that Americans can have when they raise their voice and demand action,“ said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
“Now those who rushed to the towers will know that if they get sick because of their bravery, the federal government will be there for them the way they were there for us," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). "It took too long but Congress finally rose to its responsibility to help our heroes. This agreement is the product of a lot of hard work but the end result is certainly worth it.”
Money for the program will be included in the omnibus legislation to keep the government funded that is expected to easily pass.
The bipartisan group of lawmakers who have long fought for the legislation aren't ready to celebrate just yet. But they're finally feeling like the GOP-controlled Congress is ready to make good on its promise to care for America's heroes after months of delays in funding the Zadroga Act, which expired in the fall and would have run out of money early next year without Congressional action.
"This is a major bipartisan victory for the survivors and responders who were counting on us to get this done," Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said. “We will never fully repay the sacrifices our first responders made following September 11. All they ask of us is that we never forget — and if Congress votes to pass the bill this week, they will be sending a clear message back: we haven’t.”
"Advancing the Zadroga bill was a long hard fight for the brave cops, firefighters and construction workers who put their lives and health on the line at Ground Zero. They deserve the very best medical care and treatment and I was proud to be part of this successful effort,” said Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.).
The Zadroga Act was originally supposed to be attached to an earlier highway funding bill. but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threw a wrench into those plans. With time running out before Congress breaks for the holidays, it appears 9/11 first responders and their survivors will finally be able to rest easier.
“This is a credit to the tenacity and dedication of 9/11 responders and survivors that have had to make repeated trips to Washington, walk the halls of the Capitol and or call, wrote or met with their representatives in their districts,” said Ben Chevat, the executive director of Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act.