NEW YORK CITY— A week after 9/11 first responders were granted compensation for cancers they developed while working at Ground Zero, a federal law could slash the fund set up to cover their health care needs.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, signed Jan. 2, 2011 by President Obama, is reportedly threatened by nearly $40 million in federal cuts next year, possibly affecting the health care of hundreds of first responders.
“They need to know that we know, and that it’s on our radar,” said John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation advocacy group. “We now know, we’re not going tolerate it, and we’re going to fight it.”
Budget sequester legislation passed by Congress last summer in an attempt to slash the deficit set up automatic cuts of about $1.2 trillion over 10 years, The Huffington Post reported.
If the sequester goes through, the Zadroga Act will reportedly face $38 million in cuts in 2013 alone.
Feal said his camp cannot begin negotiations until after the 2012 presidential elections, and that it is too early to tell whether the legislation can avoid the sequester.
But if the sequester occurs, Feal said the impact on first responders would be devastating.
“I don’t think it's going to come to fruition, but it could happen," Feal said. "If it does happen, we will lose $24 million on the compensation part. And that’s a lot of money that could be saving people’s lives."
The sequester would mean taking more money out of a bill that has already been chopped up through negotiations, he added. The Zadroga Act is currently worth $4.2 billion total — about $6.3 billion less than was originally proposed in the 20-year legislative plan.
“There’s a lot of work to do — we’re at the 50-yard line,” Feal said. “This isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. Everybody's at fault here. This is about saving human lives."