We Must Continue to Stand up for 9/11 First Responders

By: Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato
August 12, 2020

On September 11th, 2001 and the days that followed, many first responders risked their lives without hesitation- running into the burning World Trade Center (WTC) buildings and even more returning in the aftermath to save countless lives, all while exposing themselves to dangerous elements. Throughout my tenure as Assemblywoman, I have worked tirelessly on behalf of all first responders to amend and create state laws which seek to protect them and provide them with the care equivalent to the task they undertook.

In 2019, I introduced several bills which were later signed into law including: A.3592A and A.7819A. These bills simplify the process for first responders seeking to obtain unlimited sick leave. They also ensure that 9/11 First Responders receive the correct healthcare necessary for their 9/11 related illness/condition, as the current system was convoluted. Additionally, another bill in which I introduced, A.1801-B, was also signed into law requiring a brief period of silence each September 11th at the start of each school day in schools state-wide. Each of these bills help to provide vital services for first responders and seek to ensure that future generations will never forget this terrible moment in our history.

Prior to the pandemic, it was brought to my attention that there was another 9/11 related concern on the state level: the dormant September 11th Workers Protection Task Force (“Task Force”). So it was important to me to introduce a bill, A.10429, to revive the Task Force because our work is not done. For those who are not familiar, the Task Force was created in 2005 to expand, improve, and discuss various laws to advocate for all first responders who answered the call on 9/11. The Task Force studied various issues such as health impacts of exposure to the chemicals and toxins, regulations for accidental disability retirement benefits, and the possibility of federal funding to assist the state with costs associated. Moreover, since its inception, the Task Force was a key component of implementing New York’s 2005 legislation which created pension benefits for first responders who participated in the rescue, recovery and cleanup efforts at the WTC.

This bill will revitalize the September 11th Workers Protection Task Force for the next five years - ensuring that all first responders have a voice. The somber fact still remain-ns: in the years following 9/11, at least 10,000 first responders and people around the WTC have been diagnosed with cancer, and more than 2,000 have died. While I have advocated with the legislature to make significant progress in passing legislation for first responders, there is still much more to do before we achieve true beneficial equity for all who answered the call to action in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This bill takes a significant step towards that equity by reconvening experts to study any remaining gaps in coverage for our 9/11 heroes. Recently, the bill passed the Assembly and the Senate and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

In times of uncertainty, our community always stands up. Whether it is during 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, or more recently during the COVID-19 Pandemic – I know that we will get through this stronger and more united than ever. I am so proud of our strength and resiliency, and we will get through this together.

And remember – my office is always available to help you on any issue big or small! You can call us at 718-945-9550, email me at amatos@nyassembly.gov, or reach out to my staff for any assistance or for the latest information relating to recently legislation or the pandemic.

I hope you and your families stay safe and stay healthy.