FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 31, 2008
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG TESTIFIES BEFORE U.S. HOUSE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE SUBCOMMITTEE ON HEALTH IN FAVOR OF H.R. 6594 - THE JAMES ZADROGA 9/11 HEALTH AND COMPENSATION ACT OF 2008
New Bill Would Establish Consistent Federal Support for Monitoring, Screening, and Treatment of 9/11 Responders and Community Residents While Funding Essential Ongoing Medical Research
Legislation Would Also Re-Open Federal Victim Compensation Fund for People Whose 9/11-Related Injuries or Illnesses Hadn't Emerged When the Fund Closed in December 2003
Mayor Bloomberg's Testimony as Delivered Follows
"Chairman Pallone; ranking member Deal; Congresswoman Solis, and Congressmen Towns and Weiner, Burgess, I wanted to thank all of you and particularly the New York delegation: Vito Fossella, Carolyn Maloney, who couldn't be here, and Congressmen Nadler and King, who have worked so hard on this.
"I understand that my presence on this panel along with members of Congress defies the normal procedures and I would like Speaker Pelosi's- thank Speaker Pelosi for her strong commitment to moving this bill forward and I think it underscores the historic importance of this measure.
"Passing this bill would, at long last, fully engage the Federal government in resolving the health challenges created by the attack on our entire nation that occurred on 9September 11th. The destruction of the World Trade Center was an act of war against the United States. People from every part of the country perished in the attack, and people from 50 states took part in the subsequent relief and recovery efforts. And I might point out that planes went into a field in Pennsylvania and into the Pentagon right here in Washington. And that makes addressing the resulting and ongoing health effects of 9/11, I think, a national duty by any standard.
"Members of the committee: Nearly two years ago, on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, I directed New York City Deputy Mayors Edward Skyler and Linda Gibbs to work with the City health experts and agencies to make a thorough investigation of the health problems created by that terrorist attack. Their report, published six months later, established beyond question that many people suffered physical and mental health effects as a result of the World Trade Center attacks and its aftermath. And they included firefighters and police officers, community residents, schoolchildren, and owners and employees of neighborhood businesses, and also, most importantly, construction workers and volunteers from across America who took part in the heroic task of clearing the debris from the World Trade Center site.
"The report made clear that the ultimate scope of these health effects is still unknown. It also identified the two most important challenges presented by these health problems. And the great strength of this bill is that it addresses both of them. First, it would establish consistent Federal support for monitoring, screening, and treatment of health-related problems among eligible 9/11 responders and community residents. It would also fund essential ongoing medical research so that we can better understand what the health impacts of 9/11 are, and what the resources we need in order to address them.
"The Federal government has provided ad hoc appropriations for monitoring treatment for first responders and workers who answered the call as you- on 9/11 as you know. Congress also appropriated funds for residents, area workers, and other community members whose health was affected by the attack. But until last week, the Federal Department of Health and Human Services had not released those funds, and only now has issued a request for proposals.
"Now, you should know that New York City has not waited for Federal funds to address this unmet need. In fact, the City has budgeted nearly $100 million for 9/11 health initiatives. About half of that will be used to treat residents, workers, and others at World Trade Center Environmental Health Centers in our Health and Hospitals Corporation. But providing long-term treatment to those who are sick, or who could become sick, because of 9/11 really is a national responsibility. And to date, uncertain and insufficient Federal support of treatment efforts has jeopardized the future of these programs. And the passage of this bill would make those funds- that future secure.
"Similarly, the World Trade Center Health Registry that we created and that we maintain in partnership with the Federal government is the most comprehensive nationwide database on 9/11 health-related issues. And consistent Federal support for the Registry, made possible by this bill, will guide essential research and treatment for Americans whose health was affected by 9/11.
"The bill also incorporates strict cost-containment standards for spending on treatment. For example, it requires New York City itself, and City taxpayers, to pay 5% of the cost of treatment provided at our public hospitals and clinics. And we accept this obligation. It gives us a powerful incentive to work with Federal health officials to ensure that expensive and finite medical resources only go to those who truly need them.
"The second key element of this bill, and I'll close in a minute, is that it would re-open the Victim Compensation Fund. This is an essential act of fairness for those whose 9/11-related injuries or illnesses had not emerged before the fund was closed in December of '03, or who couldn't be compensated because of the overly narrow eligibility requirements in place at that time. It also would heal rifts that have needlessly emerged since 9/11. Today, the victims of 9/11, the City of New York, and the construction companies that carried out the clean-up at the World Trade Center are being forced into expensive legal procedures. This bill would stop these needless and costly court cases. It would allow the City to help, rather than litigate against, those who are ill.
"It would end misplaced efforts to assign blame to the City and the companies who worked to bring New York back from 9/11, instead of to the terrorists who attacked our nation. It would create a mechanism for converting $1 billion now available to the Captive Insurance Company for this purpose. It would indemnify the City and its contractors from future liabilities in such cases. And it would send the clear message that if - God forbid - terrorists strike us again, contractors and responders can meet the challenge urgently and unselfishly, knowing their government stands behind them.
"In summary: This bill directly addresses the current and future health problems created by 9/11, and also provides important relief for past injuries and illnesses. Members of the committee: We will observe the anniversary of 9/11 just six weeks from today. And let's work together to pass this bill and ensure that the brave men and women who bravely answered the call of duty when our nation was attacked receive the health care that they deserve. Thank you very much for having me, both of you."
"I'm sorry Congressmen Green and Barton weren't here but Congressman Burgess from Texas is. Texas in particular, of all the states in this country, is a state that should know just how much of a burden it is to come to the relief of other parts of our country. I've always had great admiration for the City of Houston and its people and its Mayor, Bill White, who had- came to the aid of the terrible trag- the people who were involved in the terrible tragedy of Katrina. I was in New Orleans last week. Their population's gone from 500,000 to 250,000. 150,000 of those went to the city of Houston that continues to try to provide jobs and education and health care and housing to them. So it's a state that really does understand that we all have an obligation to help each other. It's a state that also could use some help from other states who- which should be a part of that. And you should- if you would express my views to your associates from Texas, and particularly the Mayor of Houston who I have great admiration for. Thank you.
Stu Loeser/Jason Post/Lindsay Ellenbogen (212) 788-2958
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