Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced Senate passage of their bipartisan amendment to the FY24 NDAA to close the funding shortfall in the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP). The amendment will help address the long-term funding shortfall by delivering $676 million for the program, and will allow excluded Pentagon and Shanksville responders to join the program. The amendment is modeled off the bipartisan 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act of 2023, which was introduced earlier this year by a strong bipartisan group of lawmakers and 9/11 health program advocates, responders and survivors.
“This important amendment will help close the funding shortfall in the World Trade Center Health Program and uphold our promise to care for all those still suffering from 9/11 related illnesses,” said Senator Gillibrand. “There is strong bipartisan consensus that we must support our heroes and I will work hard alongside Senator Schumer and our 9/11 first responders, survivors and advocates to get this amendment passed and signed into law.”
“From the moment of the attack until the last girder was removed from the smoldering wreck at Ground Zero, our brave first responders risked it all on behalf of America. Police officers, firefighters, construction workers, and everyday folks made a sacrifice on that day – and in the months that followed – that honored their country. Recently, we delivered an additional one billion dollars to help sustain the World Trade Center Workers’ Health Program. And today, we have added an amendment to the NDAA that delivers another $676 million dollars to make sure that all responders are completely covered for any health problems that may occur as a result of their sacrifice for us. These funds will help sustain the health program for even longer. I’ll continue to work alongside Senator Gillibrand to make sure this program never runs out of the dollars it needs to ensure our Ground Zero heroes receive the treatments they need and the healthcare they deserve.” -Majority Leader Schumer
Modeled off the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act, the amendment:
- Addresses the funding shortfall set for FY29 by delivering $676 million
- Expands eligibility to 9/11 responders at the Pentagon and Shanksville sites who were active-duty DOD military or civilians, along with other Federal employees currently excluded from the program.
After years of efforts and calls on the federal government, Congress established the WTCHP on a bipartisan basis in 2011 with a five-year authorization to provide medical treatment and monitoring for 9/11 responders and survivors suffering from the effects of the toxins at Ground Zero. 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. In 2022, lawmakers delivered $1 billion for the program in the end-of-year spending bill.
Unfortunately, this funding is not enough to keep pace with the anticipated costs of providing the program’s services for over 120,000 9/11 responders and survivors, who span all fifty states and 434 of the 435 congressional districts.