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As of December 18th, Congress has finally passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act – a bill that would provide lifetime health care to first responders who became sick from rescue and recovery efforts after the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center more than fourteen years ago.
The passage of this bill comes as part of the $1.1 trillion “omnibus” budget package that was recently agreed to by both parties in the House and the Senate. The last step is the official vote, which takes place today.
Earlier this year, the bill had garnered national attention when comedian and former Daily Show host Jon Stewart declared his support for the bill. Stewart continued to declare his disdain for the slowness of Congress in passing this legislation, which he labeled a “stupid and embarrassing” situation.
In talking about the likely passage of the bill, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) expressed her pleasure, saying, “It will be a very joyful holiday season for the first responders and survivors who will finally know that they permanently have their health care.”
Maloney has been involved with the push to provide compensation to 9/11 responders since at least 2004, when she drafted the first version of the bill. That bill took six years to pass, finally becoming law in 2011, but it expired earlier this year when Congress failed to extend the provisions of the initial bill.
This new reauthorization effectively provides health care coverage for 9/11 first responders who are victims of illnesses caused by their involvement in search, rescue, and recovery operations. Such illnesses include, but are not limited to, mesothelioma and other forms of cancer, respiratory diseases, and even psychological problems.
Given that the omnibus bill has already been through the process of agreement by both parties, it has broad bipartisan support. As a whole, the omnibus spending bill will fund the federal government throughout 2016, with spending provisions that affect all departments in the government.
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