Benefits for 9/11 Volunteers Ensured
In December of 2001, I went to Ground Zero with my step-daughter. We placed a small token of prayer and remembrance and as I looked around, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Store signs were partially melted down the side of the buildings and portions of buildings were black with soot, while the other sections looked as if nothing had happened. Then there was that smell. It was bitter and strong, and smoke was still rising from where the twin towers had once stood. I will never forget any of it.
Many people went to volunteer in the early days after the attacks and, as the years have gone by since this horrible day in our history, many of the first responders and volunteers have developed health conditions linked to the toxic dust and debris. While the paid employees were covered under their employers workers compensation, volunteers didn't have any coverage.
Congress appropriated monies to help these volunteers back in 2002, but, according to the Office of the New York Governor, the World Trade Center Volunteer Fund, which handles these benefits and is administered by the state Workers' Compensation Board, exhausted this Federal funding last month.
Today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the 2016-17 state budget includes $9 million to cover the cost of lost wages and health care expenses for volunteers who contracted illnesses at the World Trade Center site in the year after Sept. 11, 2001. This ensures that volunteers will continue to receive benefits and financial support.