NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- There's new hope that the law providing health benefits for first responders who grew ill after the Sept. 11 attacks will continue.
Renewal of the Zadroga Act has been included in the year-end tax and spending bill Congress is to consider later this week.
Retired firefighter Kenny Specht, who is battling serious lung issues, said he's relieved, not only because there's money for the bill, but because he doesn't have to go back to Congress to fight for it.
"This is an exhausting process," said Specht.
He lobbied Congress about a dozen times in the past six months.
Congress will provide $8.1 billion for the permanent, 75-year renewal of the World Trade Center Health Program and a five-year, fully-funded renewal of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, WCBS 880's Peter Haskell reported.
"I say it's an absolute success," Specht said.
The inclusion won praise from Senators and members of New York's congressional delegation.
"Our 9/11 first responders never should have been forced to travel to Washington and walk the halls of Congress - legislation this important shouldn't have needed so much convincing - but after dozens of trips, they finally got the job done.'' Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said.
"This is the Christmas the 9/11 responders deserved: some peace of mind for each and every hero. Their selfless actions in response to that tragic day deserve a lifetime's worth of care and respect.'' Sen. Charles Schumer said.
"My holiday wish came true," Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney told 1010 WINS. "It's very important for the people involved, but it's also an important precedent that our country is going to take care of the people who take care of us. It's the least we can do as a grateful nation."
"We will never fully repay the sacrifices our first responders made following September 11th. All they ask of us is that we never forget - and Congress is now sending a clear message back: we haven't.''
"We could not have reached this day without all your incredible hard work and tireless advocacy on behalf of our 9/11 heroes and survivors, and I am proud to stand with you today as my colleagues.'' Rep. Jerrold Nadler said.
"Passing the Zadroga bill was a long hard fight for the brave cops, firefighters and construction workers who put their lives and health on the line at Ground Zero. They deserve the very best medical care and treatment.'' Rep. Pete King said.
"This is right, this is good, and I'm incredibly proud to be a part of it.'' Rep. Dan Donovan said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement thanking the Senators and Members of Congress for joining the fight.
"Last night, Congress finally made clear: we will be there for our 9/11 heroes, just as they've been there for us," de Blasio said. "This is a testament to the first responders and survivors whose stories – and whose tireless push on the Hill and across the nation – moved Congress to act and ensure that when this country says never forget, we mean it."
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