Area Congressional leaders fighting to the finish on 9/11 Health and Compensation extension
NEW YORK – With only a week left before Congress recesses for the year, Members of the New York Congressional delegation are fighting to make sure health and compensation benefits for 9/11 responders and survivors are extended before the end of the year. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act expired in October, and unless Congress acts soon, benefits will run out for 70,000 first responders and survivors, according to U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, and Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and other Congressional leaders who are leading the push to extend the bill.
“More than 14 years after the official 9/11 death toll was counted, thousands of our first responders are now sick and dying, and in the month of November alone, we lost seven more men and women to diseases that can be traced to their work at Ground Zero,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “We now have two-thirds of the Senate and a substantial majority of the House supporting the Zadroga bill. Yet somehow, it still hasn’t been given a vote, which would undoubtedly pass by overwhelming margins, if not unanimously. Where is the sense of urgency? It is shameful that our 9/11 heroes have been forced to wait so long already. Time is running out and Congress cannot go home for the holidays without reauthorizing this bill.”
"It is simply a black mark on Congress that the Zadroga bill was ever allowed to expire in the first place. Even worse would be for members of Congress to head home to spend the holidays with their families while the families of our 9/11 heroes spend the holidays wondering if and when their health benefits will dry up.. We have to reauthorize the 9/11 Health Program, and make it permanent. I will not rest until that happens. And I know that Sen. Gillibrand, Jon Stewart, John Feal and the many others who stand with us today will not rest until we cross the finish line,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.
“We going to use every tool at our disposal, and we’re going to get this done – we’re not taking no for an answer when it comes to health care for the heroes and heroines of 9/11,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “Congress should never have let this bill expire in the first place, and unless we act by the end of the year there will be grave consequences. For some this is a matter of life and death. We will not accept more delays, excuses and political games.”
“We have been working together for over a year to get this Zadroga reauthorization done -- we have the language ready, we have the votes ready, it’s time for Congressional leadership to act and pass this bill before the end of the year,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). “In 2010, we finally passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, providing health care and compensation to the responders and survivors of the September 11 attack. Congress must take action now to ensure that we continue to honor our promise because the heroes and survivors here today cannot wait any longer. This bill must pass before the end of the year, and I call on my colleagues to get it done.”
"It is absolutely essential that Zadroga be reauthorized without delay,” said Congressman Peter King (R-NY)
Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) said: “Although 14 years have passed since the terrorist attacks, our work towards rebuilding our nation and strengthening our homeland security isn't over. We don’t leave our injured soldiers on the battlefield, and we certainly shouldn’t leave the 9/11 first responders suffering from ailments with no funding. While we can never fully express our gratitude for their heroism, we must provide them the care they need and deserve. Let us meet our obligation to those who sacrificed to defend our freedom.”
Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) said: “It would be unconscionable to turn our back on 9/11 first responders who sacrificed for the rest of us. This should not be a partisan issue and Congress must extend these programs before the end of the year with full funding for victims and first responders.”
“On September 11th, firefighters, police officers and rescue crews rushed to Ground Zero. Too many never returned, and those who did, often came back with what would be serious, chronic health conditions. My colleagues in Congress from all over the country promised that we would stand with those first responders, cleanup workers, and volunteers. We promised that we would take care of those who took care of us, and we promised we would never forget. And now we need to turn those words into action, pass legislation to extend the Zadroga Act programs, and do right by our 9/11 heroes. They did their jobs on September 11th, and now we must do ours,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY).
“If there’s anything that both parties in Congress can agree on, it should be that we have a responsibility to take care of the heroes who risked their lives to save others on September 11th,” said Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY). “Thousands of first responders are suffering right now because of the sacrifices they made that day, and thousands more need regular monitoring to ensure that any 9/11-related illnesses are detected and treated as quickly as possible. They rely on these programs, they are counting on us to renew them before the end of the year, and we cannot let them down.”
“Over the last several months, we’ve heard a number of kind words from Members of Congress about first responders and there service on and after September 11, 2001, but quite frankly we’ve had enough of the platitudes. It’s time for Congress to do its job,” said Richard Alles, Deputy Chief FDNY, Board Member Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act. “The Zadroga Act has already expired; the clock is ticking. We are counting on Congress to step-up and renew health care and compensation now.”
“The Political game of Jenga is over!” said John Feal. “The process of eliminating those who oppose our life saving piece of legislation, starting in January with rank and file and ending with Congressional leadership, has bought us all here today. We are one last step closer to achieving our goal and finishing our mission of getting a permanently extend healthcare bill and Victim Compensation Fund bill that we can all agree on."
"Thousands of brave building trades men and women never gave it a second thought when they risked their own lives to help in the rescue and recovery after 9/11," said Gary La Barbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “Many of them are sick from the heroic acts in the months after our country was attacked. "Congress recognized their acts of heroism in 2010 by passing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Now, before Congress adjourns for the holidays to enjoy time with their families, they must follow through and renew funding for these critical health care and compensation programs. It's the right thing to do and will finally give first responders, survivors, and their families the relief they so desperately need."
Other supporters of the legislation who could not attend the event today at the World Trade Center also offered the support:
“Playing politics with people’s lives must stop immediately,” said Congressman Frank Pallone, Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee (D-NJ). “Our 9/11 first responders answered the call of duty when we needed them most, yet some Members of Congress are holding up a permanent reauthorization of the Zadroga 9/11 health bill. They are essentially are saying that we should not continue to provide them with the care they need and deserve. It is simply unacceptable. Let’s get this done and uphold our nation’s responsibility to our 9/11 heroes.”
“We’ve been constantly engaged with House leadership, including Speaker Ryan, Leader McCarthy, Whip Scalise, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Upton, and House Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte. Everyone agrees that Zadroga must and will be reauthorized. In fact, just yesterday, Chairman Upton agreed that we must ‘end the uncertainty by permanently and responsibly extending this critical program.’ When we began negotiations, a 5-year extension was on the table, so it’s clear how far we’ve come. It’s not important whether the reauthorization is in the transportation bill or the omnibus bill or the tax extenders package – what matters is that Zadroga gets reauthorized at a funding level that assures that each and every hero is given his or her deserved coverage, no matter what. We’re almost there.” Congressman Dan Donovan, (R-NY)
Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said: “There’s no reasonable explanation for the shameful delay in extending health care and benefits to survivors and first responders who risked their lives to save others on 9/11. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act deserves a vote in Congress immediately to help thousands who have been diagnosed with illnesses and disease, and many more who may be diagnosed in the years ahead. As Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, I will continue working to deliver the treatments our 9/11 first responders deserve.”
“Time is running out to pass the Zadroga reauthorization act before the end of the year. We owe it to the first responders, volunteers, and survivors of 9/11 to ensure they continue having access to the medical care and economic support they need to lead healthy and productive lives. This is not only a New York City issue, these heroes live all over the nation. It’s time for Congress to act,” said Congressman Jose Serrano (D-NY)
"The selfless heroes of Ground Zero should, under no circumstances, be left holding the bag for their medical costs. We have built broad, bipartisan support to meet this venerable duty of ours and our goal is within sight," said Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who represents North Arlington, the hometown of James Zadroga. "Congress must do right by our heroes and continue the progress we have made since the law’s initial passage. We will not rest until the Zadroga 9/11 Health Reauthorization Act is signed by the President."
“As a nation, we made a commitment to stand together and never forget the brave men and women who acted without hesitation to save thousands of lives on 9/11. It is our moral obligation to uphold this promise and extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act to ensure that these survivors continue to receive the medical treatment and support that they need and deserve,” said Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY).
“In the wake of the terrible tragedy that affected every corner in every community of this nation on September 11th, 2001, first responders from every state ran toward collapsing towers to save their fellow Americans. We can never repay the debt owed to these heroes and their loved ones, but we must do all we can to ensure they have access to proper health care and medical monitoring. If Congress doesn’t act, programs that support these heroes will expire, leaving more than 70,000 first responders and survivors without the care they need,” said Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY).
“We know that tens of thousands of first responders and survivors across the country suffer from at least one 9/11-related illness or injury,” Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) said. “Many have multiple, severe illnesses that impact their lives every day, including 4,000 responders and survivors with cancer. What we need to do as a nation is care for these men and women who served so bravely at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001 and in the days and years after. Congress needs to move with urgency and permanently reauthorize this program.”
“The survivors and first responders of 9/11 have endured numerous life-threatening ailments, and we have an obligation to honor their sacrifices by reauthorizing the Zadroga Act,” said Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10). “To not extend and fully fund the Zadroga Act would be to abandon our promise to take care of those who risked their lives to take care of us.”
“Our first responders put their lives on the line to protect us during 9/11,” said Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY). “We must provide them the certainty they deserve regarding their health care benefits by extending and fully funding the Zadroga Act.”
“Fourteen years after the September 11th attacks, we remember the selfless men and women who bravely risked their lives in the aftermath of the attack. These first responders embody the unbreakable spirit of New Yorkers and the best of the United States of America. They deserve our best in return. We must reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Act to ensure that no hero is forgotten,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY).
BACKGROUND ON THE 9/11 HEALTH CRISIS
As the nation recovered from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a public health disaster was just beginning to unfold. After 9/11, Americans from all 50 states rushed to Ground Zero to assist with the rescue and recovery effort. Thousands of brave men and women risked their lives to help others, working in extremely hazardous conditions often without proper protective equipment while the federal government assured them that the air was safe. Many were injured in the course of this work.
Rescue and recovery workers breathed in a toxic stew of chemicals, asbestos, pulverized cement, and other health hazards released into the air when the towers fell, and as the site smoldered for months. The dust cloud that rolled through lower Manhattan after the attacks settled in homes, offices, and buildings – exposing tens of thousands more residents, students, and area workers to the same toxins.
Today, more than 33,000 9/11 responders and survivors are struggling with illnesses or injuries caused by the attacks. They live in every state and 433 out of 435 Congressional districts nationwide. Many are disabled and can no longer work. They are suffering from a host of chronic diseases: asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disease, to name but a few. Medical research has identified more than 50 types of cancer caused by 9/11 toxins. At least 4,166 people have been diagnosed with cancers caused or made worse by 9/11 – a number that is sure to grow in the years to come.
To date over 94 NYPD police officers have reportedly died from their 9/11 injuries since 9/11 – more than were killed on 9/11 – and more than 110 FDNY firefighters have also died with in the years since, with more deaths expected among all the responders and survivors.