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Schumer wants more health care funding for 9/11 first responders, survivors

The money would avoid a projected shortfall in a federal program that provides medical care for people affected by the 9/11 attacks.

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Friday that he’s committed to getting more money for a federal program that provides health care for people affected by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The program, which is facing a shortfall, was created to address the medical challenges that arose for those who were exposed the day of the attacks and in the months after, including police and fire fighters who have struggled with high rates of cancer in the intervening two decades.

Speaking in Manhattan, Schumer said House Democrats have already agreed to include the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act in their version of the $3.5 trillion spending and tax package currently being written. He said he hopes to add it to the Senate version. Democrats hope to pass the package later this year.

“I am making a commitment here today that I will use everything in my power to get this in the Senate reconciliation bill as well,” Schumer said Friday ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

The measure would ensure that the World Trade Center Health Program receives a massive funding boost ahead of its projected shortfall in 2025. It would also make minor corrections to a 2010 law, which established the program, and would authorize a research group to conduct a study of the impact “of the toxic exposures and psychological trauma on the more than 35,000 people who were children” who were nearby at the time of the attack.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., an outspoken advocate for 9/11 responders, said that many healthy firefighters who responded to the attacks are developing cancers and respiratory problems.

“The funding for the program is not going to be keeping up with the program's needs,” Maloney said, “But we could easily fix that with this legislation and so doing we can ensure that the program will have the resources to deal with the illnesses.”

Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act after a major lobbying effort by firefighters and comedian Jon Stewart. It reauthorized the World Trade Center Health Program until 2090.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the program serves more than 100,000 9/11 responders and survivors from the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It provides free treatment to them for certified WTC-related health conditions only.