NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Twenty-four local leaders from around the country, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, have created a bipartisan coalition in support of reauthorizing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act as a permanent measure.
On Nov. 9, the coalition sent a letter to new U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, urging him to make reauthorizing the Zadroga Act a ‘top priority.’
“Our first responders were there for us on 9/11 – we must be there for them now. We owe it to these men and women living in all of our communities to ensure they are cared for as they face the health effects of helping this country during and after one of the worst attacks on U.S. soil,” the letter says.
The WTC Health program, a component of the Zadroga Act which provides 9/11 survivors with medical treatment, expired on Sept. 30 after Congress failed to act to extend the bill. The Victim’s Compensation Fund, which provides compensation for 9/11 victims and their families, is set to expire in 2016.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney is one of the members of Congress fighting to permanently reauthorize and fund the Zadroga Act.
“If this bill is not reauthorized, people will die,” Maloney said. “Heroes and heroines will die.”
Mayor de Blasio said renewing Zadroga should not be a partisan matter.
“It’s not a red issue, it’s not a blue issue, this is truly a red, white and blue issue,” de Blasio said. “There’s no two ways about it, this is a question of patriotism, are we going to serve those who responded after an attack on our nation.”
Congressman Joe Crowley said if the bill were brought to a vote in the house, it would pass overwhelmingly, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported. According to the coalition’s letter, 247 members of the House of Representatives also support the bill.
The bill currently has 63 sponsors in the Senate, according to the coalition’s letter.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte, of Virginia, introduced an alternative plan for the Zadroga Act, which would extend the programs for another five years, but cut payments by up to 60 percent, WCBS 880 reported in October.
Supporters of reauthorizing the original bill lashed out at the new proposal, with some 9/11 victim advocates calling it ‘un-American.’
“Cancer doesn’t know a 5-year-limit. It is there permanently. Illness doesn’t know a 5-year-limit. It is there permanently,” Maloney said.
On Nov. 8, a funeral was held for NYPD lieutenant Marci Simms, who lost her battle with cancer 14 years after working at Ground Zero. Simms’ medical costs were taken care of by the Zadroga Act.
Simms was laid to rest on Sunday. A lung cancer diagnosis changed her life about 18-months-ago, CBS2’s Emily Smith reported.
“I had a backache and they found a lump on my stomach, and we just thought it was a cyst,” she said.
Many first responders came from across the country and created a national response. To date, 33,000 people have developed 9/11 related illnesses.
Simms’ sister said she will be fighting for justice with her husband and family at her side.
“She had an amazing personality. When she walked in the room it lit up,” Susan Fosco said.
The new coalition in support of re-authorization is comprised largely of New York leaders. But mayors from 11 other major cities, including Boston, Austin, Tampa and Los Angeles are also on board.