The U.S. Senate held its first hearing on a bill that would give 9/11 responders and others affected by contaminants at Ground Zero, health care into the next decade and reopen a compensation fund that was closed in 2003.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), author of the Senate bill, asked the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee to pass the bill. "We must establish efficient programs to provide for their care and fulfill this moral obligation to them all," she told other senators at the one-day hearing.

The proposed James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which has a companion bill in the House, was named after New York City police detective and 9/11 responder James Zadroga, whose death from a respiratory illness is believed among the first tied to contaminants at Ground Zero.

Since then, thousands of workers and community members who lived close to the site have gotten illnesses related to the site.

The bill, which has two parts, provides for medical monitoring and treatment at established "centers of excellence" for the next 10 years at a cost of $4.2 billion dollars. It would also reopen the victims' compensation fund for those who got ill after the fund closed in 2003, at a cost of $6.3 billion.

Responders, lower Manhattan residents, as well as local union members and community residents spent the day on Capitol Hill speaking to lawmakers about the importance of the bill. Among them was John Feal of the FealGood Foundation, an advocate for responders, who has been pushing for the bill, and now has high hopes it will pass both the Senate and House.

"The bill is a flotation device," said Feal, of Nesconset, whose foot was crushed during demolition work at Ground Zero. "The [injured responders] are financially burdened, out of work, and are eating their own medical bills, and not able to take care of their families."

Also present was Shirley resident Thomas Magee, 49, an operating engineer who fell down a collapsed elevator shaft at the World Trade Center site after working there for nine months. While his back injury is covered by Workers' Compensation, the respiratory illnesses he has had since are not, he said. He was removed from his job, and now he and his wife have no medical coverage.

"At least I'll get the treatment for the next 10 years," he said of the bill's provisions. "Right now, I have no other place to go."

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