Zadroga 9/11 health fund expanded past Ground Zero to people in neighborhood sickened by WTC attacksBy Alison Gendar
June 22, 2011
WASHINGTON - The $2.7 billion Zadroga 9/11 fund to help sickened Ground Zero responders is set to include area residents who breathed in the poisons.
Residents who lived anywhere south of Reade St. between the Hudson and East rivers would be eligible for the health and compensation program under federal regulations proposed Tuesday.
"It is a good thing, a fair thing because it means people who didn't work at The Pit, but got sick, can still be helped," said John Feal, a 9/11 advocate and demolition supervisor who worked at Ground Zero.
While the danger area grew exponentially larger than the 16-acreWorld Trade Center site, advocates did not have immediate estimates for how many additional sick people could apply for the funds.
Tallies from 2007 suggested up to 91,000 first responders - some 26,000 of them volunteers - worked at Ground Zero in the 10 months after the towers fell.
On top of that, at least another half-million people lived below Canal St. on Sept. 11, 2001, a study by the RTI International health group found.
Figuring out the ratio of sick-to-well is still guesswork, supporters said, even nearly 10 years after the terror attacks.
Some 60,000 people are being monitored by existing 9/11 health programs - including 20,000 who have had some kind of medical procedure related to the terror attacks.
The proposed regulations draw heavily from the ground rules used in the first 9/11 victims compensation fund, and outline the process for people to submit claims for their injuries and illnesses.
Sheila Birnbaum, the New York lawyer appointed to oversee the compensation fund, said she wants the process to be "fair, transparent and easy to navigate."
"The draft rules are the first in a series of tough decisions that will have to be made by the special master," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
One area that is not addressed in the proposed regs is whether cancers will be added to the list of covered sicknesses.
Birnbaum indicated she would wait for the scientific review due next month on whether cancers should be included.
"There are tons of people with cancer. If it is not added it is a sad day," said retired NYPD Detective John Walcott, who has leukemia after working months at Ground Zero.
People who collected from the first compensation fund, but have proof their health has deteriorated, can reapply, advocates said.
New York Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Pete King praised Birnbaum's ability to get the regs out in her first 34 days on the job.
Residents will have 45 days to comment on the proposed regulations, which are available at www.federalregister.gov.