Zadroga Act moving toward permanent extension

December 8, 2015 Anna Spivak
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The massive support locally for the Zadroga Act — which provides 9/11 first responders and other survivors with health benefits, treatment and compensation — may finally be rewarded, as talk of the bill’s permanent extension by Congress is finally in the air.

Passed in 2011 and named in honor of James Zadroga, an NYPD officer who died of respiratory complications following his rescue and recovery work at Ground Zero, the Zadroga Act established the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program—a multi-pronged health system that works to provide services for rescue and recovery workers, survivors (those who lived, worked or went to school in lower Manhattan on 9/11) and responders at the Pentagon and the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, crash site.

However, after aiding thousands of first responders by paying for medical bills, screenings and medications, the act’s expiration date came at the end of fiscal year 2015.

“We came together to focus on the heroes who selflessly rushed toward death and destruction in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks,” Congressmember Dan Donovan said at a rally for the extension of the bill on Monday, December 7 at Coney Island Hospital. “Many will pay for their heroism for the rest of their lives; some have already paid with their lives. Their stories speak louder than any of us standing behind a podium. It is cancer victims like Sal Turturici and his family who are the most forceful voices in support of a permanent Zadroga Act. I thank them for their time, their words, and – most of all – their sacrifice.”

Turturici, a 15-year member of the FDNY, suffers from stage four cancer, according to Donovan’s office. He relies on the WTC Health Program for monitoring and treatment.

Also at the event was Shaya Gutleizer, another FDNY 9/11 first responder, who developed a lung condition and sinus problems following his work at Ground Zero. The Zadroga Act funds his treatments, screenings and medications.

“I stood with first responders at Ground Zero shortly after 9/11,” said Councilmember Vincent Gentile. “I witnessed them scour through rubble for survivors, remove dead bodies and debris— risking their lives and health to clean-up a horrific site. I urge congress to permanently extend the WTC Health Program and Victims Compensation Fund. We must take care of those who took care of us during the worst terror attack in our history.”

At another rally, held at Ground Zero over the weekend, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, chief sponsor of the bill’s renewal in Senate, stressed, “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.

“We now have two-thirds of the Senate and a substantial majority of the House supporting the Zadroga bill,” she went on. “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.”

According to Gillibrand’s office, nearly 70,000 first responders will remain without benefits if the bill is not reinstated.

Recent reports claim that the bill is on its way to being permanently reauthorized.

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