NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It’s been a long time coming, and after years of debate and political wrangling, people suffering from 9/11-related illnesses will finally have guaranteed healthcare.

Almost 10 years after the Twin Towers fell, there’s new aid for responders and survivors sickened from exposure to toxic ground zero dust, reports CBS 2’s Dave Carlin

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“This is a great day, and we have great news: the Zadroga Act is taking effect, and 9/11 health clinics are officially open for business,” New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell In Manhattan

“This bill sends out a great message to everybody that if you respond and you give your life, we’ll take care of you,” FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano said. “We’ll take care of your family.”

Last December, Congress approved the legislation.

“Help is on its way in 2011, and to me, that’s better than opening any Christmas gift,” first responder John Feal said when the bill passed.

The $4.3 billion bill allows first responders and survivors to file claims for five years and collect benefits for six years, caps lawyer fees at 10 percent, and reimburses medical claims at the rate of 140 percent of Medicaid.

1010 WINS’ Al Jones reports: Zadroga Bill Goes Into Effect

“Starting today, we will have federally guaranteed funds to keep these programs going, to keep providing for the healthcare of 9/11 first responders,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler said.

“Patients will also have the peace of mind that comes from the guarantee that their treatment won’t be cut off abruptly,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

To mark the occasion, New York lawmakers who fought to pass the legislation cut a ribbon at Mount Sinai’s New Clinical Center of Excellence – one of four clinics created under the Zadroga Act.

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“It’s a tremendous feeling of relief for all of us,” says medical director Michael Crane.

WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb With Rep. Carolyn Maloney

He says they now have a stable funding source and they can plan ahead.

Part of that planning includes tracking cancers.

“Zadroga really gives us the means and the resources to start that process,” he says.

Other long term chronic illnesses would also be tracked.

“Rescue and recovery workers and community survivors no longer have to worry that funding will be gone each year,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said.

“Patients will also have the peace of mind that comes from the guarantee that their treatment won’t be cut off abruptly,” Bloomberg said.

“They were there for us and now we are there for them with this much-needed, long overdue federal program to provide their healthcare,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney told 1010 WINS.

The bill was named fro James Zadroga, a 34-year-old police detective who died of lung disease his family said was linked to 9/11.

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The law also reopened a “victims’ compensation fund” for another five years. It covers wage and other economic losses of sickened workers and residents.

Dave Carlin