Ground Zero civilian volunteers to receive disability benefits after 9/11 anniversary


Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a 9/11 Worker’s Disability Benefits Bill on Wednesday that was sponsored by Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) on the 18th anniversary of the attack of the World Trade Center.

Weprin’s bill guarantees that civilian public employees who aided in the recovery efforts on and following 9/11 get the same disability benefits that uniformed first responders have received, according to the lawmaker’s office.

The bill will eliminate a disparity in coverage and will thousands of those in the public sector who are still suffering from 9/11-related diseases after being exposed to nearly two million tons of debris.

“9/11 was not 18 years ago – 9/11 is every day. We honor, we remember and we reflect, but it’s also our duty to act,” said Cuomo. “The 100,000 brave men and women who showed up to help on 9/11 deserve to be taken care of the way they took care of us, and we’re not going to leave them alone because they are American heroes. Today, we took action to help ensure they get the health benefits and pension benefits they deserve.”

Weprin said that the employees didn’t have to risk their own lives, but they “responded to the tragedy” to help their fellow New Yorkers who were at risk.

“This bill ensures that our state will take care of these workers just like they took care of us 18 years ago by granting them the full 75% disability benefit that they deserve,” said Weprin. “I thank Governor Andrew M. Cuomo for being a strong advocate for the victims of the 9/11 attacks and signing the lifesaving bill on this infamous day in our history.”

City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) will never forget that fateful day but has since fought to help to extend the Victim Compensation Fund and aided in making sure that the bill was permanent earlier this year to help survivors whose health have been impacted by the ordeal.

“As we remember those we lost on September 11, 2001, let us also remember those we have lost since, as well as those who suffer still, due to deadly and debilitating 9/11-related illnesses: first responders, civilian workers, and survivors. It is their legacy of tragedy and triumph that we must honor,” said Miller.

The Department of Health is providing guidance to health care providers across the state to highlight the devastating health effects of 9/11 to those that were exposed to toxins from Ground Zero and nearby so that better identified, evaluated, treated and referred to the CDC’s World Trade Center Health Program.

Cuomo also signed five other 9/11-related bills, announced that New York will donate an additional $1.8 million to fully fund the capital costs for the 9/11 Memorial Glade and posthumously presented a public service medal to Det. Luis Alvarez, a first responder who succumbed to 9/11-related cancer earlier this year and was laid to rest in Astoria.

One of the other five bills included state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) 9/11 observance bills.

“I am hopeful that this new law will mean that the significance of the tragic events of September 11th, whether it be the loss of loved ones or the largest rescue operation our nation ever witnessed, will be forever acknowledged by school students too young to have witnessed this life-changing day,” said Addabbo.

Along with Weprin and Addabbo, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) was also in attendance for the signing.

“There are no words to describe what these laws will do for our heroes and their families. Southern Queens and Rockaway faced an enormous loss of life following 9/11, and I believe that it is our responsibility to protect those that bravely and unselfishly protected us, and these laws accomplish just that,” said Pheffer Amato. “Thank you to all the first responders, unions, and advocacy groups for their tireless work.”