By MIKE LEE
On the 22nd anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center that unleashed deadly toxins in lower Manhattan, legislation to fully address the “forgotten victims” of the attacks was signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
These victims are those who worked at businesses in the surrounding area and remain at risk for multiple illnesses associated with the attack. Dozens of types of cancer continue to be diagnosed in first responders and others involved in the cleanup of the World Trade Center site.
The legislation, which unanimously passed the New York State Assembly and Senate in June, will expand participation in programs devoted to compensation and health care for those living and working in the area of the 9/11 attacks.
Now made law, New York’s 9/11 Notice Act directs businesses in the toxic exposure zone to inform their current and former employees of the right to register for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) and the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP).
Health resources and financial compensation apply not only to first responders, but also to anyone who lived or worked in the area.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, less than 10% of those eligible for programs related to the 9/11 attacks have applied to receive their compensation or health benefits.
Assembly Member Nader Sayegh who represents the 90th District in Yonkers, and State Senator Brian Kavanagh from the 27th District in lower Manhattan introduced the legislation. Sayegh was motivated to act upon learning that so many of those who were eligible for these benefits were either unaware or uninformed about their eligibility.
“The 9/11 Notice Act means that forgotten victims, including downtown office workers, doormen, construction workers, students, teachers, retail workers, and delivery people, must be notified of their eli
gibility status by their ex-employer,” Sayegh said. “No one should be left to suffer from 9/11-related illnesses and be burdened with overwhelming medical bills when the federal resources are free and available to help them.”
Under the Act, a business must have been located in lower Manhattan between September 2001 and May 2002 to fall under the requirements to inform past and present employees who were among the estimated 400,000 exposed to toxins during the immediate aftermath of the attacks.
“There are many workers and others who were near the World Trade Center during and after 9/11 who may be experiencing WTC-related illnesses,” Kavanagh said. “They may be eligible for these benefits but may not realize they are. The 9/11 Notice Act seeks to remedy this by notifying them of their potential eligibility for these programs.”
Once implemented, the New York State Department of Labor is responsible for ensuring impacted businesses inform eligible employees. However, employers that went out of business after 9/11 are not required to inform their former employees.
“It is our hope the Act provides individuals living and working in the lower Manhattan and northern Brooklyn exposure zones with information about these programs. These employers must provide proof of presence that will assist these individuals in obtaining eligibility for the Victim Compensation Fund,” said Deborah Williams, Director of DC 37’s Safety & Health Department.
“This is a very poignant moment in the history of our union, because it was our members running toward the disaster and risking their lives and personal safety as they have always done. We honor their memories and the still sick and suffering by fighting for the living,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido.
For questions about WTC-related illnesses and available resources, DC 37 members can contact the Safety & Health Department at 212.815.1685. The Safety & Health Department will share additional information on the 9/11 Notice Act as it becomes available.
WTC Survivor Clinics
The WTC Health Program has multiple Clinical Centers of Excellence (CCE) throughout the New York metropolitan area available for survivors. There are additional CCEs for first responders. The following Clinical Centers of Excellence provide WTC-related medical services to survivors:
NYC Health + Hospitals
(Elmhurst & Bellevue)
Manhattan and Queens
(Exams also conducted in Spanish and Chinese. Interpreters for other languages available)
Bellevue Hospital Center
462 First Ave. (27th St.)
New York, NY 10016
Gouverneur Healthcare Services
227 Madison St. (Clinton St.)
New York, NY 10002
Elmhurst Hospital Center
Elmhurst, NY 11373
Main Building, First Floor
Entrance: 80th St. & 41st Ave.