© 2022 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

World Trade Center Health Program faces a $3 billion shortfall

An American flag at ground zero on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
Mark Lennihan
/
AP
An American flag at ground zero on the evening of September 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

The World Trade Center Health Program provides medical treatment for over 100,000 survivors of the 9/11 terror attacks. But it faces a $3 billion funding gap.

The federal health program will be forced to stop enrolling new participants in 2024 and some services might get cut, according to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). She called on Congress to act quickly to add $3 billion so it can cover medical expenses for any survivor who gets sick in the future.

"We made a promise to all of the 9/11 responders, survivors and families that we would take care of them," Gillibrand said. "We cannot fall short on that promise. Many are dealing with cancer and asthma, chronic respiratory disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, PTSD, anxiety and depression."

Gillibrand said the formula that was used to calculate future costs does not keep up with the surge of new participants and the severity of their illnesses. She introduced a bill last year that would correct the formula and inject more money into the program.

John Feal, a retired construction worker from Long Island who was injured cleaning up Ground Zero, said underfunding the World Trade Center Health Program could create logjams for survivors who also want to participate in the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which provides financial security to survivors and their families.

“The 9/11 community, over the last 20 years, has been decimated, and this program gives us a fighting chance,” Feal said. "Without this program running at 100% to ensure us that fighting chance, more and more 9/11 responders and survivors are going to die and pass away."

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.