As Republicans and Democrats wring their hands over what to do about looming across-the-board budget cuts, New York legislators are desperately trying to protect a relief fund they spent years working to pass.
A group of New York Senators and Representatives said Monday that Zadroga Act funding set aside to pay for medical care for Sept. 11 first responders could be cut on Friday if an agreement isn't reached.
Some programs for emergency health care and veterans services would not be impacted by the cuts, but the Zadroga Act does not have any such protections. First responders receiving funds for medical treatment through the legislation would be in danger of losing those benefits.
"We can entirely avoid this problem if both parties agree to support a balanced deficit reduction plan that includes closing tax loopholes as well as sensible savings," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, in a statement. "But in the event that they don't, we must work to make sure there that the burden does not fall on the national heroes who are finally receiving the help they deserve through the Zadroga Act."
The delegation has drafted a bill that would incorporate the Zadroga Act funding into a family of programs that are exempt from the automatic budget cuts and is currently working to push it rapidly through both houses of Congress.
The Zadroga Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in January 2011, almost a full year after the "sequester" — the current automatic budget cuts that hang like a dark cloud over the federal budget — was approved.
"Nothing exemplifies this unbalanced and draconian approach to deficit reduction more than asking our heroes who have already sacrificed so much to sacrifice yet again," added Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, "we will fight just as hard to save the 9/11 health bill from budget cuts as we did to pass the bill originally.”