'People will die': Hundreds plead for Zadroga Act extension to keep health-help for 9/11 responders
WASHINGTON — “People will die” if Congress fails to extend the Zadroga Act, a former NYPD officer battling cancer warned a House panel Thursday.
David Howley, one of hundreds of supporters of the act who traveled to the capital to plead for its extension, said he wouldn’t be alive without the program.
“There would be someone else sitting in this chair,” said Howley, who was among the first responders at Ground Zero.
Under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, passed in 2011, about 72,000 first responders and volunteers who worked around Ground Zero after 9/11, and others who lived near the World Trade Center, receive health-care treatment or monitoring for illnesses tied to airborne toxins from the terror attack.
Authorization for the $4.3 billion program expires Oct. 1, though the program could keep operating for some time with existing money.
There are 88 House co-sponsors — and counting — of a bill to permanently extend the program, including every member of the New York City delegation.
Thursday’s hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee is the first step toward extending the act, which ends after five years due to a deal cut in 2010.
World Trade Center Health Program Administrator John Howard testified that just the threat of the program ending would stress patients who would have to consider where else they could seek vital care.
“It would be a nightmare for me personally. It would be a nightmare for our members,” Howard said. “You can’t abandon a patient.”
Five years after overcoming strong GOP opposition to win passage of the bill, supporters of extending it said they were pleased by the lack of resistance Thursday.
“I’m encouraged,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), a lead sponsor of the original and reauthorization bills.
“It’s night and day from where we were five years ago.”