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Congress still hasn’t increased funding for 9/11 survivors — and money is running out

Biden Afghanistan
Shawn Baldwin
FILE - Firefighters make their way through the rubble after two airliners crashed into the World Trade Center in New York bringing down the landmark buildings, Sept. 11, 2001.

In 2011, President Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which funded the World Trade Center Health Program. Now, the WTC Health Program is running out of money.

Republicans and Democrats are pushing Congress to accept a $3 billion funding deficit that will help the federal healthcare program get back on track. The program provides no-cost medical services to those with certified World Trade Center-related health conditions as a result of the 9/11 terror attacks. Without this funding, the WTC Health Program won’t be able to support incoming patients as soon as October 2024.

On Sunday’s 21st anniversary of the attacks, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was joined by advocate John Feal to rally for increased funding for the program.

“We’re going to get this done before the end of the year. Because 118,000 people are counting on that,” Feal said.

According to the website, the WTC Health Program supports first responders and survivors in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where planes also crashed. Since 2017, they have accumulated a database of over 83,500 responders and over 34,500 survivors. Over the past two years, over 13,000 new people entered the program for the first time.

Currently the WTC Health Program is housed under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Since 2021, members of the House have been urging Congress to accept their request to expand financial assistance to the federal health program. The 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act was proposed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) in 2021, but hasn’t moved past the introductory phase.

Gillibrand, Maloney, and Nadler issued a joint statement on September 10, saying their goal is to close the funding gap in any future legislative spending packages.

“As the nation approaches the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we must come together to ensure that ‘Never Forget 9/11’ is not an empty promise,” Gillibrand said.

Lauren is a news intern at WSHU for the fall of 2022.