Congress has reauthorized the Zadroga Act, extending benefits to ailing 9/11 responders. The renewal was included as an $8.1 billion measure in a $1.1 trillion spending packaged known as the Omnibus; the House voted 316-113 and the Senate 65-33. The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, which provides medical treatment and monitoring, was renewed for another 75 years until 2090 at the cost of $3.5 billion. The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) will be reopened another five years at the cost of $4.6 billion.
Legislators who fought for Zadroga reauthorization include Sens. Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand along with Rep. Peter King, Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and more recently Rep. Daniel Donovan. Comedian Jon Stewart a heavy supporter who publicized the issue while hosting "The Daily Show".
"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."
The WTC Health Program expired on October 1st and was using cash reserves to keep going into next year before benefits ended entirely. The VCF was slated to end 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.
First responders, 9/11 advocates and lawmakers fought for years to pass the Zadroga Act and to renew it. Ailing responders traveled to D.C. on numerous occasions to speak directly with legislators. "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."
"After 15 years, the heroes and survivors of 9/11 will know that their health care is permanent and their compensation is full," said 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."