Obama signs 9/11 health care bill into law

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HONOLULU - President Barack Obama signed into law yesterday legislation to help rescuers, cleanup crews and other people suffering from ailments linked to the wreckage resulting from the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

The 9/11 health measure, dubbed the Zadroga bill, which Obama signed in private during his family vacation in Hawaii, provides $4.3 billion in aid over five years, with $1.5 billion for health care benefits and $2.7 billion for victims' compensation.

"We will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by the firefighters, police officers and first responders who risked their lives to save others," he said in a statement. "I believe this is a critical step for those who continue to bear the physical scars of those attacks."

The Senate and House both acted on the bill on Dec. 22, the last day of the 111th Congress. It establishes funding so that Congress doesn't have to provide annual appropriations for the government programs providing health care to the 9/11 responders. The measure will be paid for with a fee on some foreign companies that get U.S. government procurement contracts.

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Since the attacks, lawmakers have provided almost $500 million for screening and treatment services to those involved in the rescue and recovery efforts, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

- Bloomberg News and AP

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