WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both-D-N.J.) Tuesday joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and a bipartisan group of colleagues alongside 9/11 health program advocates, 9/11 responders and survivors to announce 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 would also address the long-term funding shortfall, allow excluded Pentagon and Shanksville responders to join the program, and make technical corrections to the program.
“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,” Menendez said. “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,” Booker said. “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.”
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.
“We, the 9/11 community are a finite number,” said John Feal, a 9/11 advocate. “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!”
“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,” said Ryan Delgado, New York State AFL-CIO Chief of Staff. “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.”
“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,” said Nathan Coward, Retired US Army Pentagon Responder. “This oversight increases our risk of severe illness/death and needs to be fixed.”
The 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act of 2023 would:
- Address the projected funding shortfall and some statutory issues.
2. 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.
3. 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.
Sens. Menendez, Booker, Gillibrand and Schumer are original cosponsors of the Senate bill. Congressman Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y-02), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.-12), Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.-4), and Daniel Goldman (D-N.Y.-10) are original co-sponsors of the legislation in the House of Representatives.