Congress recently approved a 75-year extension on the 9/11 World Trade Center Health Program, which will allow a $1.1 trillion spending bill for those affected by the tragedy of 9/11.
The new program is a reauthorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which expired on September 30, leaving numerous people relying on emergency funds. Prior to the act expiring, many people protested, including comedian and actor Jon Stewart, who recently lobbied in Washington D.C. with more than 200 police officers, firefighters, and others who pushed to extend the act.
According to the president of the FealGood Foundation, John Feal, it was Stewart’s presence during the lobbying demonstration that helped in getting the program reauthorized.
“Jon’s presence made all the difference in the world for us this week. To thank him, I said I would mow his lawn for the next 20 years. But this wasn’t his first rodeo. He’s been with us for a long time.”
Feal recently spoke out again after the program was extended, indicating that for many people, it’s the best present they could have received for the holidays.
“It is permanent health care for the 9/11 community. For tens of thousands of people, it’s the best present they could possibly get under the Christmas tree this year.”
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand applauded the determination of everyone who came together to help reauthorize the bill, stating that the results clearly show “a testament to the extraordinary power that Americans can have when they raise their voice and demand action.“
The new passage extends the program until 2090, which will provide a lifetime of care for those affected by mesothelioma and other illnesses after 9/11. The reason for the long extension boils down to the long dormancy period of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can take can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years after people were exposed to asbestos to show up. Medical professionals expect the number of people being diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos illnesses to increase in the coming years.
A portion of the Zadroga funds, $4.6 billion, will go to the Victim’s Compensation Fund, which has been extended until 2021. The Victim’s Compensation Fund was originally created to compensate those whose loved ones were killed during the 9/11 attack, but it’s recently been revised to include families whose loved ones died afterwards due to illnesses related to the attack.
Currently, people from every state in the nation are receiving benefits from the Victim’s Compensation Fund, with more than 15,000 already-approved claims. As more and more people become ill due to illnesses related to 9/11, those numbers are expected to double.
Due to the large amounts of benefits being paid out, some skeptics began to question whether the benefits were being disbursed legitimately. As a result, a part of the new spending budget entails the U.S. Government Accountability Office conducting health program audits every five years.
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