Queens Lawmakers Rally for Extension of 9/11 Health Bill

The James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act, also known as the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF), will expire on Dec. 31, 2020, but that has not stopped lawmakers like City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Astoria) who were near the National September 11 Memorial & Museum on Wednesday from advocating on behalf of first responders and other survivors who were at or near Ground Zero in 2001.

Since that fateful day on Sept. 11, 2001, and the days and months after the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told citizens and volunteers that the air was safe to breathe, the death count for first responders and others who were near the sight from disease related to the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center has steadily climbed. It was estimated in 2018 to surpass that of the nearly 3,000 victims who died on 9/11, according to www.renew911health.org.

On the City Council level, Miller along with Councilwoman Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan) has introduced Resolution 897 to call on Congress to enact the Never Forget the Heroes bill that was introduced by Maloney on the federal level.

“The notion that the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund could one day cease to exist is unimaginable,” said Miller. “The escalating crisis of sick and injured seeking help through the VCF to address their health needs have grown beyond the program’s capacity and must be resolved quickly and definitively.”

Carolyn Maloney in FDNY jacket in support of first responders, volunteers, residents, school children and staff stricken by 9/11-related disease. Photo by Naeisha Rose.

The resolution and the Never Forget The Heroes (NFH) bill, which has garnered the support of 330 members of Congress, would make the VCF permanent and fully financed so it could help those with  9/11-related diseases until the Fiscal Year 2090, according to the bill.

John Feal, a 9/11 activist and first responder who was at Ground Zero, believes that the 2090 date should cover the expected life expectancy of these survivors if their health needs are met with the bill.

“We are going to get a bill passed, that is a guarantee,” said Feal, who is from L.I. “but more and more people are going to get sick and more and more people are going to die, but the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act gives them a fighting chance and then provides their families with a financial offset.”

A hearing is expected on June 11, for the NFH Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act, which is known as H.R.1327 in the House and was sponsored by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as S.546 in the Senate.

“The process that we have is to send all the information to the OMB, the U.S. Office of the Management and Budget and they analyze it and come back with a number,” said Maloney. “We can’t pass it out of committee until we get the number [for funding]. They are telling us that we will get it before June 11. Then we could pass it in the first week of July.”

There is overwhelming support of the bill in the House of Representatives, according to Maloney.

“We have enough votes to pass it right now,” said Maloney. “Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi is a strong supporter of it and we have a huge number supporting that. We have to get it out of the committee before June 11, and then we could pass it in the first week of July. That is our plan, but we have to get the costs from the government.”

Schumer and Gillibrand have assured Maloney that they could get the bill through the Senate.

“They have 35 cosponsors which is substantial,” said Maloney. “They have bipartisan support. It is amazing that in the most partisan Congress that this bill has over 300 cosponsors. I’ve never seen a bill with over 300 cosponsors.”

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