Medical benefits have been renewed for 9/11 responders who became sick or injured as a result of their service. Congress has voted to renew the Zadroga Act, and subsequently extended the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). The renewal was fought for by responders, 9/11 advocates and lawmakers. Many praised the renewal, which took years of effort and numerous trips to D.C. "After 15 years, the heroes and survivors of 9/11 will know that their health care is permanent and their compensation is full," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who fought for creation of the program since the attacks and pushed for renewal.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was one of many to praise the passage, stating it is "proof that Washington can live up to its responsibility to the American people."
"When the Twin Towers fell, thousands of brave men and women rushed into danger and put the safety of others before their own," said Cuomo. "They rescued people from the rubble, sacrificed countless hours away from their families, and helped us heal and rebuild in the days that followed, while never straying from the kind of selfless courage that will be remembered for generations to come. And today, Congress has finally shown that these heroic acts were not forgotten."
The renewal was included in a $1.1 trillion spending package known as the Omnibus. The package was passed by a vote of 316 -113 in the House and 65-33 in the Senate. The Omnibus includes an $8.1 billion measure to renew benefits; $3.5 billion to extend the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program another 75 years until 2090 and $4.6 billion to reopen the VCF an additional five years.
Lawmakers who pushed for Zadroga reauthorization include Sens. Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and more recently Rep. Daniel Donovan. Rep. Peter King, Carolyn Maloney, and Jerrold Nadler also fought for the bill, along with comedian Jon Stewart a heavy supporter who publicized the issue while hosting "The Daily Show". "I promise you, nothing ever happens here unless regular people demand it from their leaders," said an emotional Gillibrand in reference to the responders who made the trek to D.C. with their families. "Today is a joyous moment." She also stated. "All my gratitude goes to the first responders ... This is my proudest day in Washington."
"Together, we made sure that no one could take their eyes off this," said Schumer at a press conference. "Whenever there was an intransigent senator or member, we would talk to them. But when someone who had cancer and rushed to the pile came to their door ... they couldn't resist."
Congress allowed the WTC Health Program to expire on October 1st; the program had enough funds to keep going into next year before benefits ended entirely. The VCF would have ended next October. "I can finally say I'm proud of my country . . . Our heroes deserve never to worry that their health care will disappear, or that their families will struggle because of 9/11." said Nadler.