9/11 First Responders Could Receive $2.9B

Tribute in Light
FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2017, file photo, the Tribute in Light illuminates in the sky above Lower Manhattan area of New York from across the Hudson River on the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in Jersey City, N.J. The coronavirus pandemic has reshaped how the U.S. is observing the anniversary of 9/11. The terror attacks' 19th anniversary will be marked Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, by dueling ceremonies at the Sept. 11 memorial plaza and a corner nearby in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)

Jonathan D. Salant

nj.com

(MCT)

The $3.5 trillion spending bill now making its way through the U.S. House will include $2.9 billion to compensate police officers, firefighters and others injured responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. said Thursday.

The money would go to shore up the 9/11 World Trade Center Health Program, which permanently was extended in 2019 along with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which provides financial help for injured first responders.

The bill was named for James Zadroga, a New York City police officer from North Arlington who died of a respiratory disease attributed breathing in dust at the World Trade Center site after 9/11.

It also was named for two other first responders who died after 9/11, Ray Pfeifer, a New York City firefighter, and Luis Alvarez, a New York City police officer.

Comedian Jon Stewart championed the first responders, and helped convince recalcitrant Senate Republicans to bring the measure to the floor for final approval.

But with the fund now running out of cash, Pallone said additional money will be included in the section of the bill being drafted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which he chairs.

“As we prepare to remember the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our country, we must renew our commitment to never forget the sacrifices first responders made on that day and the survivors who continue to endure the physical and emotional trauma,” said Pallone, D-6th Dist.

“We can never fully repay the debt of gratitude we owe to responders and survivors, but we can make sure that we do all we can to make sure they have access to the medical care they rightfully deserve.”

Other House committees are writing different sections of the legislation, which will address child care, health care, education, climate change and the Republican tax law’s $10,000 cap on deducting state and local taxes.

Congressional Democratic leaders plan to pass the measure, a top priority of President Joe Biden, under a process known as reconciliation, which will prevent Senate Republicans from filibustering the measure and allow it to get through Congress by a majority vote in both houses.

This is separate from a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that already passed the Senate and includes at least $12.3 billion for New Jersey, plus money that could be tapped to help fund the $11.6 billion Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River and to extend Amtrak passenger service through New Jersey into the Lehigh Valley and Scranton, Pennsylvania.

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Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at jsalant@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him at @JDSalant.

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