Volume 80, Number 19 | October 7 - 13, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

9/11 health bill passes in House

By Aline Reynolds

Nine years after the Sept. 11 attacks, victims nationwide who volunteered at the site are one step closer to receiving economic compensation and continued medical help.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health Bill and Compensation Act (H.R. 847) passed the House of Representatives by a 268-to-160 vote on Wednesday, just more than 15 months after it was first introduced in its comprehensive form. If passed in the Senate, the bill will offer healthcare to 9/11 first-responders and other survivors exposed to the dangerous airborne toxins in the days and months following the attacks.

The $7.4 billion law offers sustained medical monitoring and treatment to residents, workers and students, and expands on the existing programs by providing expert care at the Centers of Excellence at Bellevue Hospital, Elmhurst Hospital, Gouverneur Health Care Services and the W.T.C. Medical Monitoring and Treatment Programs at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the Fire Department of New York.

The bill also reopens the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to reimburse victims for financial losses as an alternative option to taking the city to court. It also provides legal protections to the city and W.T.C. construction firms involved in the dismantling of the destroyed buildings surrounding Ground Zero.

The bill was on the House floor in July, but did not get the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.

Roughly 36,000 Americans have been treated for 9/11-related illnesses and injuries, and more than 53,000 responders are currently registered for medical monitoring. About 71,000 people are enrolled in the W.T.C. Health Registry, claiming they were exposed to toxins.

Sponsored by New York Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, Peter King and Michael McMahon, the Zadroga Bill now awaits Senate approval.

“We’re working closely with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the bill to a vote in the Senate by the end of the year,” said Joe Soldevere, spokesperson for Congressmember Maloney. President Obama has pledged to sign the legislation into law if it appears on his desk.

Nonetheless, the House vote Wednesday was a major victory in the eyes of the law’s proponents.

“Today, members of the House put aside politics and made history by voting in favor of justice and care for the first-responders and survivors of 9/11,” said Nadler in a written statement. “I’m so proud of this victory and I’m moved by the prospect of finally, after nine long years, delivering what thousands of ailing Americans have been waiting for.”

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