July 13, 2022

Gillibrand Pushes to Close Funding Gap in 9/11 WTC Health Program; Presses for Fix in Reconciliation or Defense Bill

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a press conference to push Congress to pass the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act in order to deliver $3 billion in supplemental funding to close the impending funding gap in the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP). The funding shortfall will begin impacting the program and its ability to provide services starting in FY2025. Gillibrand is pushing to include the bill in either the upcoming reconciliation package or in the year-end FY23 National Defense Authorization Act.

After years of efforts and calls on the federal government, Congress established the WTCHP in 2011 to provide medical treatment and monitoring for over 117,000 9/11 responders and survivors. Now, nearly seven years since Congress reauthorized the program, it is estimated that the funding formula in the statute will not be able to keep pace with the anticipated costs of providing the program’s services for 9/11 heroes, who span all fifty states and 434 of the 435 congressional districts. Soon, the WTCHP will not have the funds needed to provide care for those still suffering the physical and mental impacts of 9/11 and for those who have yet to be diagnosed with new 9/11-associated conditions caused by their toxic exposures. 

“In 2011, we established the World Trade Center Health Program to provide first responders, survivors and their families with health care benefits in order to treat 9/11-related health conditions,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Unfortunately, funding for the WTCHP will run short soon and force benefit cutbacks unless Congress takes action. The 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act will close this funding gap and ensure the program has the resources it needs now and into the future. I am going to work with my colleagues to include this legislation either in the upcoming reconciliation package or in this year’s defense bill. I will never take no for an answer when our 9/11 heroes’ health benefits are in jeopardy.”

“The 9/11 community over the last 20 years has been decimated. This program gives us a fighting chance. These men and women, uniform and non-uniform, are fighting machines and they need desperately need this program to stay up and running,” said 9/11 activist John Feal.

The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) originally passed in 2011 with bipartisan support with a five-year authorization, and was created to provide medical treatment and monitoring for the thousands of 9/11 responders and survivors suffering from the effects of the toxins at Ground Zero as a result of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The program covers the lifespans of all exposed, including responders and survivors of the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the Shanksville crash site, children who were in schools in downtown Manhattan on 9/11 and during clean-up, and those who have since experienced, or are expected to experience, adverse health effects that are linked to the attacks in the coming years. The program was reauthorized in 2015 and extended through 2090 with bipartisan support.

Senator Gillibrand has been a forefront advocate for 9/11 first responders and led the effort to pass the bipartisan Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act in 2019, which fully funded and extended the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. In 2010 she authored and passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act that both created the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) and reopened the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). In October of 2018, following the announcement that the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was set to run out of funding before its expiration date in 2020, Senator Gillibrand, joined by Senators Gardner and Schumer and Representatives Maloney, Nadler, and King introduced a bipartisan bill to permanently reauthorize and fund the VCF for 9/11 heroes and their families.  

This bill is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Schumer (D-NY), Menendez (D-NJ), Booker (D-NJ), Murphy (D-CT), Blumenthal (D-CT), Brown (D-OH), Kaine (D-VA), Baldwin (D-WI), Casey (D-PA) and Reed (D-RI). The bill is led in the House of Representatives by Representative Carolyn Maloney and has nearly 90 additional cosponsors.