9/11 first responders call for Zadroga Act extension

Channel 12 Long Island 

[Click on the link above to see a video of the recent press conference]

NEW YORK – There’s a new push to extend the law that provides health benefits to September 11 first responders, as the 13th anniversary of the attacks approaches.

The Zadroga Act is the federal law that provides care and compensation for those sickened by the toxic dust at Ground Zero. The heath care portion of the act is set to expire next October, and the compensation is slated to end in 2016.

It’s unsettling for people like Ray Pfiefer, of Hicksville. Pfiefer is battling stage 4 kidney cancer, and he says he contracted the disease after his yearlong search-and-recovery efforts at Ground Zero.

“We were called down here to save lives, and I feel like I’m abandoned by politicians that have the fate of our lives in their hands,” Pfiefer says.

Elected officials who support the act want to extend it for 25 more years, but supporters say it will be a tough sell along party lines.

“It’s a numbers game,” says Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York). “A lot of Republicans don’t support it, so that’s difficult.”

One Republican who does support it is Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), and he says he’s not giving up on an extension. “I’m promising I will do all I can and we will get it through,” he says. “One way or another, we will get it through. It won’t be easy, but we will get it through.”

Pfiefer says he hopes so, because he can’t imagine fighting cancer without the financial help from the Zadroga Act. “Cancer is expensive and it really does help having this bill,” he says.

Thursday is the deadline for those who worked at the World Trade Center site to enroll with the state Workers’ Compensation Board. Public officials say even people who are not sick should register, because it preserves their right to get benefits in the future if they do become ill.

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