Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Representatives Andrew Garbarino (R-NY-2), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-12), Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY-4), and Daniel Goldman (D-NY-10), Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), 9/11 health program advocates, and 9/11 responders and survivors announced the bipartisan 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act of 2023 to close the funding shortfall in the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP). While the lawmakers delivered $1 billion for the program in last year’s funding package, the program still faces a substantial funding gap and excludes some Pentagon and Shanksville responders. The bill, sponsored by Senator Gillibrand in the Senate and Congressman Garbarino in the House, will address the long-term funding shortfall, allow excluded Pentagon and Shanksville responders to join the program, and make technical corrections to the program.
The elected officials were joined by International Association of Fire Fighters General President Edward Kelly, 9/11 advocate John Feal, union representatives of NYPD and FDNY, and other 9/11 responder and survivor advocates, including medical professionals.
“Once again, I’m introducing a bill to close the funding shortfall in the World Trade Center Health Program to guarantee care for all those still suffering from 9/11-related illnesses. We promised to never forget the heroes, but we will fall short until the WTCHP is fully funded and every responder is covered,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud to lead the bipartisan 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act with Congressman Garbarino, Leader Schumer, and this strong bipartisan coalition. Our heroes should be focusing their time and energy on their health, not lobbying the halls of Congress. We must get this done.”
“Before the smoke even cleared on 9/11, our brave first responses leapt into action. Police officers, firefighters, construction workers, and everyday folks made a sacrifice on that day – and in the months that followed – that honored their country. Last Congress, despite GOP opposition, we fought hard for —and delivered—an additional one billion dollars to help sustain the World Trade Center Workers’ Health Program. And today we are working 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
“More than 20 years ago, we experienced the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history. Today, tens of thousands of 9/11 survivors and responders are living with the ramifications of that day,” said Congressman Garbarino. “When Congress first established the World Trade Center Health Program, a promise was made to care for those Americans, but now a looming funding gap threatens their access to healthcare for 9/11 related illnesses and injuries. The bipartisan bicameral 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act is our chance to fulfill our promise – once and for all – to Never Forget by closing the funding gap and ensuring the WTCHP is equipped to care for those who need it for years to come. I thank Senator Gillibrand for her partnership in this effort and I look forward to continuing to work together to get this done.”
“In the years since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the phrase ‘Never Forget’ has been seared into our national conscience. It is an oath — our sacred vow to 9/11 victims, responders and survivors,” said Senator Menendez. “As elected officials and public servants, we have a solemn duty to turn this oath into action for the more than 120,000 Americans eligible for the World Trade Center Health Program. No matter how long it takes, I’m proud to stand with a bipartisan group of my colleagues who are committed to ensuring we care for every survivor and every first responder struggling with lingering health effects of that fateful day.”
“We made a promise 22 years ago to never forget the events of 9/11,” said Senator Booker. “That means making sure that all survivors and first responders who endured the tragedy are cared for, which is why I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation that will provide the necessary federal funding to ensure support programs for those affected by 9/11 continue past this decade.”
“While over twenty years have passed since the 9/11 attacks, so many of our heroic responders and survivors continue to carry with them the burden of that terrible day as they have fallen sick from the air surrounding Ground Zero,” said Congressman Nadler. “Congress must uphold the promise made to our first responders and survivors by fully funding the WTCHP to provide the injured and their families the aid they need and deserve. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act, which will address the funding shortfall to keep the program available for those who need it for years to come.”
“As a retired NYPD Detective who served in the years following the September 11th terror attacks, I have seen firsthand the lasting impacts of 9/11 related health issues on the brave first responders who rushed into danger that fateful day as well as on the many Americans who were saved through their courageous efforts. As a member of Congress, I am proud to cosponsor the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act, and will continue advocating for the federal government to fully support Americans facing medical complications stemming from the September 11th terror attacks,” said Congressman D’Esposito.
“Living in downtown Manhattan on September 11th, I will never forget watching the second plane hit the Towers and the soot-covered people walking up Hudson Street. We owe a debt of gratitude to the survivors and first responders who risked everything in the wake of the 9/11 that includes full funding of the World Trade Center Health Program. The 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act is the bare minimum of what should be expected of us as political leaders in this country. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that these brave 9/11 survivors and first responders never have to return to D.C. again to advocate for the same care and selflessness they demonstrated without hesitation on that terrible day 22 years ago,” said Congressman Goldman.
“We, the 9/11 community are a finite number. After 22 years let’s get this done in a timely manner so we can finally be left alone. We want to be left alone!”- John Feal, 9/11 Advocate
“Fire fighters’ courage and dedication to others was on full display on Sept. 11. Tens of thousands of fire fighters were exposed to toxins now wreaking havoc on their health. The World Trade Center Health Monitoring program is a critical way that we can take care of our 9/11 first responders and live out our promise to never forget their service,” said IAFF General President Edward A. Kelly. “The IAFF applauds Senator Gillibrand for her legislation to help the program avoid a funding shortfall that would cut key healthcare services for fire fighters. I urge Congress to act on their promise to remember the events of 9/11 and protect our first responders.”
“It’s unconscionable that once again 9/11 responders and survivors are left wondering if the vital healthcare they are counting on and that they undeniably need and deserve will be there for them in the future. Congress did the right thing when the program was passed and extended in 2015. Now Congress has a moral obligation to fix this once and for all by passing legislation that will address the impending budget shortfall and make much needed corrections to the program. Thank you, Senator Gillibrand and Senator Schumer, and Representatives Garbarino, Goldman, D’Esposito, and Nadler for leading this critical effort.“ -Ryan Delgado, New York State AFL-CIO Chief of Staff
“We are here in Washington DC to ask our elected representatives to, once again, fund the promise that was made to the Responders of the September 11, 2001 attacks on our country. Those that were the first to arrive on the scenes of the attacks are still getting sick and dying. The Congress should fully fund the World Trade Center Health Program and honor their promise.” –Lt. James McCarthy, Uniformed Fire Officers Association President
“For 20 years, we have demonstrated why the World Trade Center Health Program is absolutely essential to 9/11 first responders and survivors,” said NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association President Vincent Vallelong. “With enrollees from nearly every congressional district in America, ensuring full funding for this vital program is not a ‘New York issue’, nor is it a ‘red’ or ‘blue’ state issue. Rather, it is an issue of the moral obligation our nation has to those who went forward in the face of unprecedented terror and carnage to protect and serve others. The SBA appreciates the continued leadership of Sen. Gillibrand, Leader Schumer, Rep. Garbarino, and the New York Delegation on behalf of all those who continue to pay a heavy price for answering the call to duty on September 11, 2001.”
“Having literally buried my mother this week as a result of her death from 9/11 related cancer and my dad two years ago from 9/11 related lung disease, it angers and frightens me that other loved ones like my friends and neighbors may not be covered. We were promised treatment through 2090. Now fund it!”– Mariama James, Lower Manhattan resident and 9/11 Survivor Advocate
“As one of the youngest first responders at the age of 19 who responded to the 9/11 WTC terrorist attacks and is now battling for the last five years a very rare stage 4 cancer that only 1 in a million people get, I urge our government elected officials to close the funding shortfall in the World Trade Center Health Program. The program has been a lifeline for me and so many others that ran to help without regard for personal safety. All the heroes that day who continue to sacrifice so much deserve the support and required medical care. To date, my numerous major surgeries, chemotherapy, over ten organs removed, medications, special physicians, and medical care has cost over 5 million dollars. Not sufficiently funding the WTC health program would have devastating impacts to 9-11 first responders, crippling our ability to continue receiving essential life or death care and treatment needed to cope with the long lasting impacts of that fateful day.” – Jamie Atkinson, Ground Zero Responder and Deputy Coordinator of the Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Services
“I responded to the Pentagon on 9/11 as a member of the US Army. Pentagon and Shanksville responders like myself are being denied access to the World Trade Center Health Program. This oversight increases our risk of severe illness/death and needs to be fixed.” –Nathan Coward, Retired US Army Pentagon Responder
“For over 21 years, individuals with World Trade Center, Pentagon and Shanksville exposures related to 9/11 have had health issues related to their service on that day and in the weeks and months thereafter. With medical costs rising, it is imperative to ensure that there are the resources to cover the many ailments these men and women are suffering from, and provide needed coverage for additional health issues in the future.” -Dr. Jacqueline Moline, Chairperson, Department of Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention, Northwell Health
The 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act of 2023 would:
- Address the projected funding shortfall and some statutory issues.
- Fix the original statute from 2010 that has been interpreted by HHS to bar 9/11 responders at the Pentagon and Shanksville who were active-duty DOD military or civilians, as well as other federal employees, from being included in the World Trade Center Health Program.
- Change minor details in the text of the initial law regarding flexibility in certain program positions, certifications, credentialing providers, and calculating enrollment and time requirements for processing new conditions.
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.
Full text of the bill can be found here.