‘This is our final stand.’ 9/11 first responders advocate for WTC Health Program funding
Two 9/11 first responders from Long Island are heading to Washington, D.C. to fight for more funding for the World Trade Center Health Program.
The program was established in 2015 to help first responders and survivors sickened by the toxic dust following the 9/11 terror attack.
There are more than 122,000 first responders and survivors currently enrolled in the program.
Some lawmakers and advocates say the program is facing a $2 billion shortfall due to inflation and a high number of participants.
John Feal, of the Feal Good Foundation, and former NYPD Sergeant Tom Wilson say they are ready to battle for funding for other first responders who are sick.
Wilson spent 300 hours in the search and recovery effort at Ground Zero and Fresh Kills Landfill. In 2008, he was diagnosed with head, neck and tongue cancer. He credits medical services from the World Trade Center Health Program with helping him beat cancer in 2013.
Feal and Wilson are pushing for the passage of the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act, which would provide $2 billion for the program, along with some fixes to the funding formula to cover inflation costs.
“That $2 billion will make sure that the doctors and nurses stay, that outreach is continued, that more illnesses are added in the future,” said Feal. “This is our final stand. We're serious. We're dedicated and we're going to get this done.”
“It's tough to go down for me. I get exhausted physically when I speak for long amounts of time, my jaw and mouth start to swell up but it's worth it,” said Wilson.
Comedian and 9/11 victim advocate Jon Stewart is expected to join their battle in the halls of Congress and meet with lawmakers.