STATEN ISLAND, NY — New York State Assembly members Nader Sayegh (D-Yonkers) and J. Gary Pretlow (D-Mt. Vernon/Yonkers) have introduced legislation to ensure that all workers and citizens eligible for the World Trade Center (WTC) ) victims’ health coverage is informed about and can receive it.
More than 20 years after the 9/11 terrorist attack, some construction workers involved in cleaning up the WTC and people who lived and/or worked nearby at the time are still developing health complications from exposure to toxins released when the Twin Towers collapsed.
However, according to the press release at a press conference that Sayegh and Pretlow held last week, it is estimated that only 10% of citizens eligible for coverage are enrolled in the WTC Health Program.
The “9/11 Notice Act” would require companies with 50 or more employees that operated between September 2001 and May 2002, in the Lower Manhattan Exposure Zone, to notify their current and former employees of their proper registration for the WTC Health Program.
“Not all of our 9/11 heroes wore uniforms. Those who returned to work south of Canal Street and revived New York’s economy are also heroes, breathing the same toxic air as our first responders,” Sayegh said.
“The new legislation aims to locate lost 9/11 victims, as many as 400,000 people, to let them know they have a lifeline and not to drown in debt, while giving them access to life-saving treatment on the road to recovery.” recovery,” the councilor added.
The WTC Health Program was reauthorized for 75 years, ending in 2090, under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act in 2019.
The program fully covers costs associated with hospitalizations, treatments and medications, alleviating the financial burden for survivors suffering from conditions, such as cancer, as a result of staying in the exposure zone.
“I will never forget the smell of burning metal and the sight of the chalky cloud of dust that engulfed lower Manhattan after the 9/11 terrorist attack,” Pretlow said. “More than two decades later, the strong smell and powdery dust are gone; however, the effects of the toxins still persist, causing more than 4,600 deaths since 9/11 — more than the death toll on that horrific day.”
“Most people who returned to work or school in the area were exposed to serious health risks, but data shows that hundreds of thousands of them are unaware of the potential long-term dangers of 9/11 toxins. This new legislation represents a moral obligation to find forgotten 9/11 victims who 20 years later are still at risk of getting sick and to help them access health resources for life,” Pretlow added.
State Senator Brian D. Kavanagh (D-Lower Manhattan/West Brooklyn) announced at the press conference that he will be the title sponsor of the 9/11 Notice Act in the State Senate.
Kavanagh also stressed the importance of the bill and raising awareness of survivors who do not have access to the health care they are entitled to.
“The funds don’t help people as they are [unaware] that they can register. There is a chance for them to be monitored and get the health care they need,” the senator said.
The bill was referred to the Senate Rules Committee on Friday.