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The US Senate approved a measure Thursday that pumps $676 million into the financially troubled 9/11 health care fund providing medical care for first responders and others affected by the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The bipartisan measure — pushed by New York Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer — is expected to clear the House of Representatives and be approved by President Biden.
The funding was attached as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.
“This important amendment will help close the funding shortfall in the World Trade Center Health Program and uphold our promise to care for all those still suffering from 9/11-related illnesses,” Gillibrand said.
Many first responders, downtown residents, workers and students were sickened from breathing in the toxic air from the smoldering twin towers — including those suffering from respiratory disease and cancers.
“This amendment is a huge step forward towards making sure the first responders and those injured on 9/11 are never left behind,” Senate Majority Leader Schumer said in a floor speech.
“Before the smoke even cleared on 9/11 — before the rubble even quit burning — our first responders, firefighters, our police officers, EMTs, FBI agents, construction workers were just running to danger, trying to do their job and save lives. And 22 years later, people are still getting sick from the dust, the air, the poisons,” he added.
The amendment is modeled on the bipartisan 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act of 2023, which was introduced earlier this year by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and 9/11 health program advocates, responders and survivors.
A portion of the funding — $200 million — expands eligibility to 9/11 responders at the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa. sites.
Congress established the World Trade Center Health Program in 2011.
It was reauthorized in 2015 and extended through 2090.
But the funding is not enough to keep pace with the anticipated costs of providing the program’s services for over 120,000 9/11 responders and survivors, who hail from all 50 states.
Congress fills in the projected funding gaps every year.