Time is running out for Zadroga 9/11 health act renewal
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Renewing the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is an urgent matter and we owe it to those who have 9/11-related ailments.
That's the message elected officials and first responders are trying to get to Congress in pressing the act's renewal: sick and dying people need the act's benefits to get treatment.
The act's health care provision expires at the end of this month and the compensation portion expires in October 2016.
While there are a large number of members of Congress who support extending the act, there are several other pressing issues that Congress is getting tied up with.
The Iran nuclear deal, the budget, the threat of another government shutdown if all goes wrong, are big-ticket items on the negotiating table and some fear the Zadroga Act will get pushed to the side.
And House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has indicated his opposition to passing an extension of the act.
It's why comedian and former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart visited Washington, D.C., last week with around 100 9/11 survivors and first responders, asking Congress to get its act together and renew the act before it expires.
While an October expiration doesn't mean funding is cut off immediately — it could last months longer — the uncertainty of not knowing when funding would run out is enough to make supporters antsy to get the deal passed.
For his first official act in Congress, Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) added his name to the list of sponsors.
He had promised his constituents in the 11thCongressional District — with more than 6,500 people who rely on Zadroga Act funding, more than any other congressional district in the country — that he would do all he could.
"This seems straightforward: 14 years ago, true heroes risked their lives to pick up the pieces in lower Manhattan," Donovan said last week as supporters gathered in the nation's capital. "Today, they still suffer the physical consequences of their selflessness. Time doesn't erase our moral imperative to cover their medical expenses — it is an extension of the costs of the attack. That's why I cosponsored the Zadroga Act within minutes of taking office in May, and why I'll stand side-by-side with Democrats and Republicans in fighting for a permanent extension."
Americans in all 50 states — 431 of 435 congressional districts — rely on the act for treatment, something that mostly congress members from New York are stressing to their colleagues in other parts of the country.
"Our 9/11 heroes did not flinch when they put themselves in danger in the days and months after the attack, and now far too many suffer from serious illnesses as a result of that work," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who has been pushing for a renewal. "These heroes deserve a fully-funded and permanent health monitoring and compensation program and I will be working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to promptly renew this vital program because our heroes deserve no less."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has also been pushing for the act's renewal, saying timing is key.
"There's a lack of urgency often in Washington," she said last month.