On the hallowed 21st anniversary of 9/11, we find some survivors are still being victimized. The culprit, in this case, is Congress.
The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) is quickly running out of funds to pay 9/11 survivors’ mounting medical costs.
There was $3 billion in funding that was pegged to be included in the Build Back Better bill, which could not be passed by the Senate. However, the funding did not make it into the latest budget bill — Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 — recently signed by President Joe Biden.
The WTCHP is crucial to the 83,764 first responders and to the 34,710 survivors who have signed up since the original measure was enacted in 2011.
The United States is the biggest humanitarian aid provider to people in need around the world.
That’s an admirable practice — after all, Luke 6:30 reads: “Give to everyone who asks you … Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
But homegrown American heroes and first responders are being pushed aside from having their ground zero-related illnesses — including 68 different forms of cancer, from skin to pancreas — recognized, diagnosed, and treated.
There should be a strong impetus from our local politicians to get this funding passed sooner rather than later.
Only Republican House member Nicole Malliotakis, who represents Staten Island and south Brooklyn, is co-sponsoring the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act, a bill that would provide funding to keep the program going. Malliotakis’s district lost more than 300 people on 9/11. It’s unclear how many survivors within her district are enrolled in WTCHP. Chances are it is far more than 300.
In April, Bishop Robert Brennan, during his “Way of the Cross” procession, stopped at ground zero in lower Manhattan after crossing the Brooklyn Bridge to say one of the Stations of the Cross prayers at the site.
Included in the WTCHP are the 300,000 office workers who worked south of Canal Street on 9/11 and were affected by the terrorist attacks.
Many of the victims worked and lived within the Diocese of Brooklyn. Diocesan parishioners may know people affected by the tragic afflictions that have emerged in early responders and survivors who were there on that fateful day.
In 2010, Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, named for the first NYPD officer to die of a respiratory disease attributed to exposure to toxic chemicals, contracted after he worked more than 400 hours participating in rescue and recovery operations in the rubble at ground zero. The legislation provided health monitoring and financial aid to 9/11 first responders and survivors.
But that was a dozen years ago. Now, a renewed effort — from more than a single lawmaker — is needed on Capitol Hill.
If Congress does not get moving on this crucial piece of legislation soon, the World Trade Center Health Program will become an oxymoron.