N.Y. politicians will push to extend 9/11 care act, but it’s a tough sell

By Dan Friedman New York Daily News

WASHINGTON — Ahead of the 13th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, New York lawmakers are launching what they say will be a tough fight to extend a law providing health care and compensation to first responders and others sickened by toxic air after 9/11.

Joined by Mayor de Blasio, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) and Pete King (R-L.I.) will announce at a Monday news conference legislation in both congressional chambers to extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The act, passed in late 2010 after a long fight, authorizes programs providing medical treatment and compensation for sick 9/11 responders. The health program expires in October 2015, and the compensation program ends in October 2016.

The expiration dates are the result of a 2010 legislative deal with Republicans that allowed passage of the bill by holding down its cost.

Advocates of the program now face a tough fight for its renewal with 30,000 9/11 responders, area residents and workers already receiving treatment for illness deemed related to the attack.

“We want to start building momentum,” Maloney said in an interview Friday.

The bills propose extending the programs for a whopping 25 years, through 2041. That’s an opening bid expected to be whittled down in congressional negotiations.

Common, chronic sicknesses that resulted from breathing toxic air around Ground Zero include asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease. More than 2,900 people were diagnosed with cancer caused or worsened by the aftermath of the attacks.

The sick include 800 current or past FDNY members and 550 NYPD members. An additional 70 firefighters and 60 NYPD officers have already died of 9/11-linked illnesses. [Note- these numbers do not include the other recovery workers – construction workers, PAPD, DDC, operating engineers, steel burners, iron workers, crane operators, NYS Court officers, DSNY, Corrections officers, National Guardsmen, Parks Dept. personnel, telephone workers, cleaners of contaminated buildings, volunteer firefighters from around the country, chaplains – or survivors, lower Manhattan residents, and students who have died of site-related illness.]

“These brave men and women did not think twice before risking their lives in service to our nation,” Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “Congress has a duty to continue to stand by them in the years ahead by providing the health care and compensation that our 9/11 heroes and their families need and deserve.”

Supporters of the legislation fear that if Republicans recapture control of the Senate and retain control of the House in November’s elections, their chances of extending the bill will be doomed.

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