Senator Gillibrand pushes for Zadroga bill for Sept. 11 responders
In the years since the towers collapsed, more than 33,000 people have developed illnesses, including respiratory problems and cancer, Gillibrand said.
With two programs that provide health care and financial help for Sept. 11 responders set to expire next month, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was in White Plains Wednesday to show her support for making the provisions permanent.
“They answered the call of duty when our nation was under attack,” she said of the firefighters, police, utility workers and others who were at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 and during the weeks and months after. “They deserve to be treated by Congress as the veterans they really are.”
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act provides health benefits and victims compensation funds for people who worked in the recovery and clean up at the World Trade Center site and later became sick.
Two of the Zadroga bill’s critical programs — the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund — are set to expire.
There was widespread support for the bill when it was originally passed in 2010. As it expires, Gillibrand said that making it permanent is the priority.
“We will not accept another short term fix,” she said during a visit to a White Plains fire station.
In the years since the towers collapsed, filling the air in Lower Manhattan with smoke and toxic fumes, more than 33,000 people have developed illnesses, including respiratory problems and cancer, she said.
“People don’t realize that the death toll didn’t stop that tragic day,” she said. “It continues to march onward as brave men and women suffer from terrible cancers and illnesses.”
Ed Kennedy of Mahopac was a New York City firefighter called to the towers just before they collapsed on Sept. 11. He now has sarcoidosis, an inflammation of cells often in the lung that has been diagnosed in many 9/11 survivors, as well as other respiratory problems.
“I never had any of it before Sept. 11,” he said Wednesday at the event.
Robert Reeg of Stony Point also attended Gillibrand’s speech. Reeg, a firefighter, was seriously injured during the collapse of the South Tower on Sept. 11. He has lingering health issues related to his injuries, he said.
Gillibrand and Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan are lead sponsors of the bill. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer also supports it.
“Our number one goal, and Sen. Gillibrand and I are on the same page on this, is to get this enacted permanently,’’ Schumer said in a telephone interview Wednesday, acknowledging that the original goal of getting it enacted prior to the Sept. 11 anniversary won’t be possible because of the upcoming debate over Iran. “So the goal would be to have it done before we left session this year.’’
Schumer is optimistic there will be enough Republican support for bipartisan passage.
“When push comes to shove, many of our Republican colleagues end up supporting this because they know these people are like our veterans, like our soldiers,’’ he said. “They rushed into danger when it looked like a time like war to risk their lives to save people. So I am very hopeful we can get this done.’’
Washington Bureau reporter Brian Tumulty contributed to this report.