RANDALL’S ISLAND, Manhattan– Dozens of first responders will travel to Washington D.C. to fight for their benefits.
The Zadroga Act, which provides health monitoring and financial aid to 9/11 workers and their families, expired last month, but advocates are fighting to extend it.
Some say funding is quickly running out.
One of the workers says people are dying and suffering but Congress can easily close this wound.
But they continue to add salt to it.
The program has enough money going through the end of the year. Advocacy groups disagree and fear funding will run out sooner than that, leaving many heroes sick with nowhere to go.
They are fighting and leaving buses this morning headed to Washington to push for a permanent extension of critical healthcare benefits for all workers that are suffering right now.
“It’s a shock when you find out you have cancer and its related to 9/11,” former FDNY member Robert Tilearcio said. “Besides the shock, you have to go treatments. Then you have to go for bills. Then you find Congress doesn’t want to back the Zadroga bill because they think they’re paying for it.”
“Spend a day in the hospital with a cancer patient you’ll see what its like,” FDNY chief Gene Kelty said. “Maybe they should do that instead of going outside of the country.”
But federal officials who administer the program say it will face challenges by February and will have to start shutting down by next summer.
Letting the program expire in October created “enormous anxieties and fears in the minds of very sick people.”
Some lawmakers say it is unacceptable for Congress to let it expire.
More than 33,000 9/11 first responders struggle with serious illnesses.
About 3,700 have been diagnosed with cancers.
Some say Congress is putting politics ahead of heroes’ health.
They have also started a petition that has collected more than 164,000 signatures.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was named after an NYPD officer who died of a respiratory disease attributed to the September 11th attacks.