Members of the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations united at the site of the September 11 World Trade Center attacks, this week, to voice their opposition to proposals that would make cuts to health care and compensation and only temporarily extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Majority released a bill to temporarily extend the World Trade Center Health program for a period of five years. A separate bill, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Majority members, would temporarily extend the Victim Compensation Fund for five years. Both bills drastically cut spending for the programs, to levels below what is necessary to ensure all responders and survivors receive adequate health care.
In addition to opposing the bills’ funding deficits, a majority of the House supports a permanent extension, according to the local lawmakers.
“The cancers suffered by 9/11 responders aren’t five year cancers,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. “Five years of health care won’t do. We cannot tell those who have already lost so much that the compensation they were promised will be cut by more than half. The Zadroga Act must be permanent and fully funded so that these brave men and women never again have to beg Congress for the care and compensation they need and deserve.”
Authored by Maloney and Congressman Jerrold Nadler, along with Congressman Peter King, the bipartisan James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act would fully fund and permanently extend the health and compensation programs. It currently has broad support, including 241 House cosponsors.
New York’s Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer have introduced the same legislation in the Senate, and have 62 cosponsors – a bipartisan and filibuster proof majority.
“The Judiciary and Energy and Commerce Majorities have dropped a subpar, inadequate bill that ignores the needs of our 9/11 heroes,” said Nadler. “The new proposal came about without talking to any advocacy group of policemen, firefighters, or survivors; without talking to any of the Members of Congress who have worked on this issue for the last 14 years; and without taking into account the existing bill – the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act – which fully funds and permanently reauthorizes these life-saving programs.”
If the Maloney, Nadler, King bill fails to pass, it could mean the end of the programs created by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which passed in December 2010 and was signed into law by President Obama in January 2011.
The World Trade Center Health Program authorization expired at the end of September, and its funding will run out by September 30, 2016. The program is in the process of shutting down, creating anxiety for those in treatment, and problems for program administration, medical staff retention and continuity of care.
The Victim Compensation Fund, also authorized for five years by the 2010 Zadroga Act, will shut down by October 3, 2016 and will not be able to fully compensate 9/11 responders and survivors unless Congress extends the program and fully funds it.
“We owe our first responders who sacrificed on 9/11 a profound debt of gratitude and that extends beyond just lip service,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. “It is time to permanently reauthorize with adequate funding the programs that care for first responders’ health and that compensate other 9/11 victims. Anything less than that is unacceptable.”