On the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation reconstituting the September 11 Workers Protection Task Force into law.
The bill, introduced by Rockaway Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and Brooklyn state Senator Andrew Gounardes, reauthorizes the task force until 2025 and seeks to revitalize it by refreshing appointments, expanding the areas of study, and setting a biannual meeting requirement to accompany the provision that the task force delivers reports on its findings to the governor, Senate and Assembly by June 1 each year.
“These brave men and women selflessly put their health and safety at risk to help New York recover in the aftermath of 9/11 and they deserve to be taken care of the way they took care of us,” Cuomo said. “This measure will help ensure they continue to receive the care they need and that New York is able to meet their evolving needs.”
The task force has studied and issued reports regarding the health impacts of exposures to toxins at Ground Zero, the limitations of existing laws and regulations for accidental disability retirement benefits, and potential federal funding to assist the state with the costs. It also expands the required purview of the task force to include analysis of the following areas: average processing times for disability claims; notices of approval rates for claims; lack of disability coverage for public employees who participated in the response but were not members of a retirement system at the time; appeals processes; opportunities to synchronize benefits and identify individuals who participated in the 9/11 response.
“We will never forget September 11th, 2001, and that’s why our work never stops to protect those who continue to be impacted by the events of that day,” Pheffer Amato said. “The September 11th Worker Protection Task Force will better protect and serve the men and women, and their families, who have sacrificed so much for our city. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership in the fight to support all 9/11 first responders, and I want to thank Senator Gounardes for his partnership in helping pass this bill in the state Senate.”
Gounardes noted that nearly two decades after the 9/11 attack, first responders are still dealing with the effects.
“When we say ‘never forget,’ we must also mean never leave behind those who were our heroes on that terrible day and all the days after,” Gournardes said. “This bill will allow us to continue to ensure those workers and responders, have the benefits and healthcare they need and deserve, and I want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing my bill today.”