Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer held a press conference in New York City to announce they had secured $1 billion for the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP), which provides health benefits to 9-11 first responders and survivors. The WTCHP would have had to start denying new enrollments and cutting services to sick responders and survivors starting October 2024 without the crucial funding provided by Senator Gillibrand’s amendment to the end-of-year spending bill, which Senator Schumer helped negotiate. This funding will enable the program to continue providing uninterrupted service until at least 2027. After the funding was initially left out of the FY23 omnibus funding package, the senators worked across the aisle to introduce a revised version of the 9-11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act as an amendment to secure the funding in the final omnibus package.
“This $1 billion in funding will ensure that more than 120,000 9-11 first responders and survivors can continue receiving medical treatment and monitoring,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am grateful to Majority Leader Schumer and all of the 9-11 first responders and advocates for their help in getting this done. There is more work to be done in the future and I look forward to working across the aisle and with advocates to strengthen this program.”
“Before the smoke even cleared on 9-11—and before the rubble even quit burning—our first responders were on the scene at Ground Zero: firefighters, police officers, construction workers, and volunteers of all kinds just trying to do their part,” said U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer. “For their sacrifice, many first responders developed serious health complications from their time working the pile, from lifelong injuries to cancer. Many sadly are no longer with us. Too many. We created the World Trade Center Health Program so that 9-11 responders could afford to treat their ailments. We’ve funded and fought for it from day one. With the passing of this amendment, Senator Gillibrand and I can say that the health fund will not face its expected funding shortfall in approximately two years, and that more certainty and consistency of treatment for all those sick now – and all those who might become sick from their exposure— will be delivered.”
“‘Never Forget’ is a solemn promise to our 9-11 first responders and one that we must always honor,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “I’ve seen the lifelong injuries and serious medical conditions that those who saved lives at Ground Zero developed, and they must always know that New York City has their backs. Thank you to Senator Gillibrand and Majority Leader Schumer for fighting for that promise and ensuring that over 120,000 first responders will continue to receive critical, lifesaving health care.”
“The World Trade Center Health Program is a lifeline for thousands of active and retired FDNY members who bravely risked their lives on September 11th and now bravely battle illnesses as a result of their selfless acts of heroism,” said Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh. “Every first responder in the World Trade Center rescue and recovery effort earned their country’s unwavering support. I’m grateful to Senators Gillibrand and Schumer, and their fellow members in Congress, for once again making good on that promise to fund the medical care for these incredible heroes.”
In August 2021, Senator Gillibrand introduced the 9-11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act. The bill would deliver approximately $3.6 billion in supplemental funding to close the impending funding gap in the World Trade Center Health Program, which stems from the formula not keeping pace with the costs of health care inflation and increased participation in the program.
In September 2021, Gillibrand, Schumer, and bipartisan members of the New York congressional delegation held a press conference in New York City calling for passage of the bill ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.
About the World Trade Center Health Program: Congress established the WTCHP on a bipartisan basis in 2011 with a five-year authorization to provide medical treatment and monitoring for over 120,000 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.