Congress is set to permanently fund the 9/11 health care bill known as the Zadroga Act -- a major win for emergency first responders. The vote this week will provide them with medical treatment for life. NY1 Washington bureau reporter Geoff Bennett was first to report the deal-making in the House and has the story.
"A quarter of my life, I’m 48," said 9/11 first responder John Feal. "A quarter of my life has been spent in D.C. advocating for 9/11 responders like myself."
In the end, the personal pleas, press conferences, and public shaming of lawmakers paid off.
Late Tuesday night, word came that the thousands of firefighters, police officers, EMTs and other first responders, who got sick from working at the World Trade Center site, would finally receive lifetime medical care for their illnesses.
That’s after leaders in the House and Senate agreed to permanently renew the Zadroga Act by including it in a spending bill that Congress will approve this week.
The life-saving legislation had expired. But lawmakers settled on a 75-year renewal of the Zadroga Act program providing medical treatment for first responders and a five-year renewal of the fund that pays families of people killed on 9/11 and families of those who have died of 9/11-related illnesses.
Last week, NY1 was first to report that members of the House ended their stalemate over how to pay for renewing the Zadroga Act.
"What a wonderful holiday present for our heroes and heroines," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., in her office Wednesday.
Maloney introduced the first 9/11 health bill 11 years ago. Wearing a 9/11 firefighter's coat given to her as an award, Maloney explained why the legislation is so important.
"We have documented over 33,000 people who are sick with illnesses directly related to the toxic fumes that they inhaled, which government said was safe," Maloney said.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand led the fight to get the Zadroga Act renewed in the Senate.
She credited the 9/11 first responders, who forced members of Congress to fulfill their obligations.
"The reality is nothing ever works here unless regular people demand it," Gillibrand said in an interview last week. "Our first responders have been relentless. It’s their voices that have truly made the difference."
Congress is set to vote on the spending bill, which reinstates the Zadroga Act, by the end of the week.