Watch CBS News

Advocates Say Health Care Funding For 9/11 Survivors Could Run Out By 2025 Unless Congress Passes Correction

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Advocates are calling on Congress to pass a correction to the 9/11 Responder & Survivor Health Funding bill.

Elected officials said the money will run out if the government doesn't act quickly, CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reported Friday.

"I actually lost my dad in May to 9/11-related COPD. My mom is a stage 4 colon cancer survivor, and my children also, and myself, also suffer with... respiratory diseases," said Mariama James, a 9/11 survivor.

James had two young children, was eight months pregnant and living near the Twin Towers when they collapsed. She said her entire family was exposed to toxic dust.

"I started taking them, like dragging them, from doctor to doctor, from very young. Like when, my baby was like 10 months old, when I started noticing that they were all just getting ear infections and sinus infections over and over again," she said.

James joined first responders and elected leaders to call on Congress to pass the Survivor Health Funding Correction Act.

They're asking for more money to be put into researching the effects of toxic exposure of more than 35,000 people who were children at the time of the attack, going to school or day care in the area.

"Two days after the attack, Christine Todd Whitman held a press conference to say the air was safe to breathe. There was no data at that time. Some of us got together with private environmental groups and started doing testing, and we found that it was not safe," said U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler.

But the main focus of the bill is to fix a funding shortfall in the World Trade Center Health Program that now supports more than 100,000 survivors.

"We need additional resources because the cost of inflation for medical expenses is far higher than the normal cost of inflation," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. "We also need more resources because the percentage of first responders and family members who are now contracting diseases has escalated."

The World Trade Center Health Program is free to all who have a documented 9/11-related illness. Congress also designated billions of dollars for victims compensation for those with cancer and those who have lost loved ones. Click here for more information.

Officials said 75% of the firefighters who responded on 9/11 now have some form of illness.

"The next 20 years are going to decimate us. More and more people are going to get sick, more and more people are going to die," said John Feal, a first responder and advocate.

Feal, who lost his foot working as a demolition supervisor at Ground Zero in the days following the attacks, has been fighting with Congress to ensure medical benefits are funded for first responders and survivors through 2090.

Officials said the money could dry up as soon as 2025.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.