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Congress Extends 9/11 Health Care Benefits

By Irene Plagianos | December 18, 2015 2:23pm | Updated on December 21, 2015 8:57am
 People fled the World Trade Center collapse on 9/11 amid a cloud of toxic dust.
People fled the World Trade Center collapse on 9/11 amid a cloud of toxic dust.
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Spencer Platt/ Getty Images

LOWER MANHATTAN —  It's a long-fought victory for the survivors and first responders of 9/11.

Congress on Friday voted to extend health care benefits through 2090 for the thousands still suffering from Sept. 11-related illnesses, including cancer and asthma.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act was part of the massive, $1.1 trillion "must pass" spending package that passed both the House and Senate Friday.

Survivors and elected officials have been pressuring Congress for months to extend the benefits, which were set to expire this year.

To ramp up efforts, last week, Jon Stewart returned to "The Daily Show" for the first time since stepping down from the show in August, imploring viewers to put pressure on their Congressperson to extend the funding.

The Zadroga Act — named for NYPD officer James Zadroga, who was sickened after breathing the toxic dust clouds at Ground Zero and died of respiratory illness — was passed by Congress in 2010 after nearly a decade of political wrangling.

The act funds two programs.

The World Trade Center Health Care Program, which offers free health care, will now be open through 2090, offering presumably a lifetime of coverage to those who survived the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, and the thousands who helped in recovery efforts.

The other program, the Victim Compensation Fund, which reimburses responders and survivors for medical care as well as lost wages and pain and suffering, was extended for another five years.

Several New York officials, including representatives Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Peter King, and U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer had been leading the charge to make health care for survivors and first responders permanently available.

"[A]fter an obnoxious wait, the Zadroga 9/11 Health Fund will be extended to cover our heroes for the rest of their lives," Schumer said on Twitter.

In another tweet, he thanked the efforts of the first responders: