Congressional legislators have banded together to save from automatic budget cuts set for January funds designated to compensate and cover health expenses for 9/11 first responders and victims.
Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens, Manhattan), Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) and Peter King (R-Nassau), along with U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, on Tuesday demanded the Office of Management and Budget spare the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and World Trade Center Health Fund from $38 million in cuts through sequestration.
The automatic cuts were laced into a 2011 debt ceiling deal that called for over $1 trillion in budget cuts should a bipartisan “super committee” fail to create a workable deficit reduction plan.
The legislators argue in a letter to OMB Director Jeffrey Zeints that other programs providing the sick and injured with financial aid have been spared, including several veterans and worker compensation funds
OMB has created over 100 exemptions to date.
“Slashing tens of millions of dollars from the World Trade Center Health and Victim Compensation funds is just plain wrong,” Maloney said in a statement. “Both are paid for with a dedicated funding stream and do not add one red cent to our nation's budget deficit.”
The cuts would come months after the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Director John Howard on Sept. 11 of this year recognized over 50 cancers as 9/11-related, broadening the pool of beneficiaries under the Zadroga Act.
President Barack Obama signed the act into law two years ago. It is meant to cover and compensate those directly affected by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including those suffered illnesses related to the disaster and its immediate aftermath.
The program is named after NYPD Detective James Zadroga, who died at age 34 of a respiratory illness attributed to his working on the World Trade Center pile in the weeks and months after the attacks.
An estimated 1,000 people have died from illnesses, including cancers, resulting from the 9/11 attacks. The addition of cancer as a 9/11-related illness will increase the number of claims for compensation, as well as the ranks of those whose are monitored and treated.