Obama Signs 9/11 Health and Compensation Act

On Jan. 2, President Barack Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act into law. This legislation establishes the World Trade Center Health Program and extends and expands eligibility for compensation under the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001.

“I was honored to sign the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to ensure that rescue and recovery workers, residents, students and others suffering from health consequences related to the World Trade Center disaster have access to the medical monitoring and treatment they need,” Obama said.

The Senate unanimously passed the $4.3 billion James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act on Dec. 22, 2010, following a period of partisan disagreements and negotiations. The act is named for James Zadroga, a NYPD officer who in 2006 succumbed to respiratory disease believed to have been caused by air conditions during his rescue efforts at Ground Zero.

“We will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by the firefighters, police officers and first responders who risked their lives to save others,” Obama added. “I believe this is a critical step for those who continue to bear the physical scars of those attacks.”

NYCOSH: Responders Need and Deserve Nation’s Help

Upon the bill’s passing in December, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) congratulated lawmakers and advocates who helped the Senate reach a deal on a bill to help cover health care costs for ill or injured 9/11 cleanup, rescue and recovery workers.

“Thousands of men and women who labored selflessly in the rescue and recovery effort after the terrorist attacks have fallen ill from toxic exposures,” said NYCOSH Executive Director Joel Shufro. “They need and deserve the nation’s help in covering their treatment costs and compensating them for their losses.”

NYCOSH had raised alarms about the exposure of workers to toxic substances in the aftermath of 9/11 and called for greater worker protections. A large number of the men and women who helped with cleanup, rescue and recovery were public sector employees.

“Many of these workers are now sick,” said Lee Clarke, a NYCOSH board member. “This bill will help to ensure they get the health care they need.”

Shufro added that it is critical to take steps now so that disaster response volunteers and workers never again have to suffer such preventable illnesses.

“We will have more disasters,” Shufro said. “The question is, will the government enforce environmental and occupational protections to ensure that workers who respond do not pay with their health or their lives?”

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