Monday, January 3, 2011
Yesterday, United States President Barack Obama signed into law a five-year benefit package to provide healthcare treatment for emergency workers including police, firefighters, and rescue workers affected by illness and respiratory problems contracted while working at the site of the World Trade Center attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001.
The bill—the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which is named after a police officer who died of a respiratory illness he got during a rescue operation at the World Trade Center — will provide $4.2 billion over the next five years. This money will be raised by increasing a levy on foreign companies that win procurement contracts from the United States government.
The new legislation also provides new funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, a federal program for victims of the attacks.
President Obama signed the bill in Kailua, Hawaii, where he is staying on vacation. In a statement, Obama said: “We will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by the firefighters, police officers and first responders who risked their lives to save others. I believe this is a critical step for those who continue to bear the physical scars of those attacks.”
The law was the only one that passed through Congress during the lame-duck session in December, with some Republican opposition. New York Senators and Congressmen have praised the passage of the measures.
“The heroes who rushed to Ground Zero in the hours and days after the attacks will not be forgotten. These first responders were like veterans, and this law keeps with a time-honored tradition of standing by our veterans when they get harmed answering the call.” said Charles Schumer, Democratic Senator from New York. He also vowed to “begin work immediately to make sure this law gets renewed for another five years”.
New York Republican congressman Peter T. King said that “Justice is finally being served”, and that the passing of the law marked “A great day for America.”
Democratic congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney said that “The Zadroga law will save lives and fulfills our moral obligation to care for those who rose to the defense of America in a time of war.”