Yesterday, the House finally approved legislation that will provide over $1 billion of medical care to workers and residents in New York, suffering from illnesses caused by conditions at ground zero. The bill didn’t pass when it was under consideration in July.
The vote was 268 to 160, with 17 Republicans joining Democrats in support of the bill. Opposing the measure were 157 Republicans and three Democrats. Republicans raised concerns about the $7.4 billion cost of the program.
The bill’s fate is unclear in the Senate. Republicans have enough votes to filibuster the measure, and Senate Democrats have not shown great interest in bringing the measure to the floor.
Some 60,000 people currently receive some sort of treatment due to complications from 9/11. The government appropriates all of this money. The amounts are re-evaluated on a yearly basis.
Before yesterday, Congress had not allotted any annual money to assist those injured at ground zero.
The bill calls for providing $3.2 billion over the next eight years to monitor and treat injuries stemming from exposure to toxic dust and debris at ground zero. New York City would pay 10 percent of those health costs. The bill seeks to set aside $4.2 billion to reopen the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to provide compensation for any job and economic losses.
In addition, the bill includes a provision that would have allowed money from the Victim Compensation Fund to be paid out to anyone who receives payment under the pending settlement stemming from lawsuits that 10,000 rescue and cleanup workers filed against the city. At the moment, anyone who receives a settlement from the city is limited in how much compensation they can receive from the fund, according to the bill’s sponsors.
In a way, both sides are right. Supporters feel the nation has an obligation to help fund the proposed medical care, since many of those suffering risked their lives to help at ground zero. They want consistent payouts.
On the other hand, opponents say that the federal assistance is enough for now—along with the billions the Victim Compensation Fund has already paid. They don’t think our economy can shoulder another multi-billion dollar burden.
What do you think? Should the Senate pass the bill? Or is it too much for the economy?