Press Releases

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2013

New York City Firefighters Join New York Congressional Delegation in Saying: Sequestration Cuts Must Not Come on the Backs of Ill 9/11 First Responders

The leadership of the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York (UFA) joined with members of the New York Congressional delegation in speaking out against the negative impact the federal budget sequestration would have on the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Program starting March 1, unless leaders on Capitol Hill can agree to a deficit -reduction plan.

UFA President Steve Cassidy joined with U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Christen Gillibrand, along with U.S. Representatives, Peter King, Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and other union leaders at a press conference calling upon Congress to negotiate a responsible budget package to replace the sequester cuts that kick in at the end of the week. Those cuts are expected to deliver a $27 million shortfall to the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Program. Senator Gillibrand and Rep. King are sponsoring legislation requesting the Zadroga Act be immune to the mandated cuts.

“When our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001, New York City Firefighters did not pause to ask if our government would be there to protect them and their families should they become ill or die as result of their work at the World Trade Center site,” said Steve Cassidy. “Above and beyond the losses we suffered that day, well over 100 New York City Firefighters who worked for months-on-end participating in the rescue, recovery and clean-up operations have since died and thousands more are sick. As a society, isn’t there a moral imperative that we stand up for the men and women who manned the front lines when terrorists declared war on America and attacked our city?”

“Nothing exemplifies this unbalanced and draconian approach to deficit reduction more than asking our heroes who have already sacrificed so much to sacrifice yet again,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Our 9/11 heroes who answered the call of duty should be treated with the same dignity as our veterans. Just as we came together as Democrats and Republicans to fight for our 9/11 heroes and families needing relief to rebuild from Sandy, I urge our colleagues to do the same and work towards a balanced approach that avoids the looming deep and automatic cuts from going into effect. But we must prepare for the worst case scenario, and we will fight just as hard to save the 9/11 health bill from budget cuts as we did to pass the bill originally.”

“This is one of the most poignant examples of why we must work to avert the sequester,” said Senator Schumer. “We can entirely avoid this problem if both parties agree to support a balanced deficit reduction plan that includes closing tax loopholes as well as sensible savings. But in the event that they don't, we must work to make sure there that the burden does not fall on the national heroes who are finally receiving the help they deserve through the Zadroga Act. Veterans have been exempted from sequestration and the heroes who have rushed to towers after 9/11 should be treated the same. They risked their lives in a time of war and suffered for it.”

“We have come too far and our 9/11 heroes have waited far too long to allow sequestration to cut this critical funding,” said Rep. King. “It is simply too cruel. I regret that Senator Gillibrand and I must now sponsor legislation requesting that the Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act, a fully paid-for, deficit reducing piece of legislation be immune from such cuts. Our heroes deserve better.”

The 2013 budget cuts currently exempt veterans and at least six federal programs to aid the sick and injured from sequestration cuts, including the Payment to Radiation Exposure Compensation Trust Fund, Radiation Exposure Compensation Trust Fund, Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Fund, Vaccine Injury Compensation, Vaccine Injury Compensation Program Trust Fund, and the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. The federal Office of Management and Budget has 150 exemptions to date – including the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Fund and pensions for former U.S. Presidents.

During the 2012 debt-ceiling crisis, a deal was reached to automatically cut over $1 trillion in defense and domestic programs, known as sequestration, if a “super committee” failed to reach a balanced deficit reduction plan. Members of the New York Congressional delegation say that despite a clear precedent for an exemption for health and compensation programs, an estimated $17 million is slated to be slashed from the 9/11 Bill's Victim Compensation Fund, and an additional $10 million would be cut from the World Trade Center Health Fund in 2013 alone.

“Two years after Congress fulfilled its promise to the heroes of 9-11 by giving them the health benefits and support they need and deserve, we’re now just days away from going back on that promise. On Friday, if Congress does not act, $17 million will be slashed from the VCF and another $10 million will be cut from the WTC Health Fund. That is, quite frankly, an outrage,” Rep. Maloney said. “Neither program adds one red cent to the budget deficit. Veterans’ health programs are exempt, and so should be the programs covered by the Zadroga Act. These cuts would be a grave injustice and Congress has a moral obligation to stop them.”

“We must safeguard every last dollar we allocated for our bill, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, and ensure that sequestration does not force us to ration assistance for the sick,” said Rep. Nadler. “Thousands of 9/11 responders and survivors are sick today because of their exposure to toxins in and around Ground Zero, and they depend on this funding for their health and well-being. We are calling on Congress to exempt Zadroga from the imminent sequester-borne cuts.”

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