Advocates fight to extend Zadroga Act to help 9/11 first responders

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The law that provides health monitoring and financial aid to 9/11 workerse and their families expired at the beginning of this month, but advocates are fighting to extend it.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is named after an NYPD officer who died of a respiratory disease attributed to the September 11th attacks.

The program has enough money to keep going through the end of the year.

Advocacy groups disagree, and fear funding will run out sooner than that.

For now, first responders who rushed to the World Trade Center after the 2001 terrorist attacks, worked for weeks and now suffer from illnesses like pulmonary disease and cancers will still be able to get their health care.

But federal officials who administer the program say it will face challenges by February and will have to start shutting down by next summer.

Letting the program expire creates "enormous anxieties and fears in the minds of very sick people," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who has been lobbying her colleagues to make the program permanent and recently was joined by comedian Jon Stewart.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was unacceptable for Congress to let it expire.

"Congress must stop putting politics ahead of our heroes' health," he said in a statement.

John Feal, a former World Trade Center demolition worker and leading advocate for sick responders, has pressed lawmakers to pay attention to the Sept. 11 program.

"People are dying and suffering, and Congress can easily close this wound," Feal said. "But they continue to add salt to it."

Feal joined us on Eyewitness News Sunday Morning.

He has started a petition drive that has collected more than 164,000 signatures.

For more information, visit:
www.fealgoodfoundation.com
www.respondersremembered.com

(Some information from the Associated Press.)
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