It wasn’t until 11 p.m. on Tuesday that New York lawmakers and advocates knew for sure that the $1.1 trillion must-pass omnibus spending bill for 2016 actually included an extension of the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
A last-minute glitch in one of the measures being used to pay for the $8.1 billion Zadroga Act renewal left the measure $800 million short. But supporters scrambled and found a new source of funding, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday.
Anticipating a bipartisan majority of Congress will approve the spending bill, Schumer said, “This is an amazing victory.”
The House and the Senate are scheduled to vote Friday on the omnibus spending package, which will pay for the federal government to operate through Sept. 30 and includes many other added-on items such as the Zadroga Act.
John Feal, who organized the lobbying effort for an extension, said he and the first responders who went to 600 meetings with lawmakers and their aides on 23 trips to Washington will come back for one more visit.
“We’ll be there Friday,” Feal said. “I want my guys to see their hard work come to fruition.”
If the spending bill passes as expected, it will extend the Zadroga Act’s World Trade Center Health program for 75 years, until 2090, at a cost of $3.5 billion, and renew the act’s Victim Compensation Fund for five years and fund it fully at $4.6 billion.
The extension includes some revisions, said Benjamin Chevat, executive director of the Citizens for Extension of the James Zadroga Act.
Those changes are minor, Chevat said. And the bill will speed the time it will take for victims to actually receive their compensation, he said.
The likely approval of the act was hailed by sponsors Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Schumer, and Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan) and Peter King (R-Seaford).
Schumer and Gillibrand gave credit to the first responders, Feal and comedian Jon Stewart.
Admitting he was tired from the past year’s work, Feal said, “Congress left me with a tainted taste in my mouth” because despite promises “every time they moved the goalpost back on us.”
But for responders who will have the assurance their health care will not end in their lifetimes, Feal said, the extension is “the best present they can get for Christmas.”