PBA President Daniel M. De Federicis was on hand Monday as Gov. George E. Pataki signed into law three bills that will improve benefits for rescue workers who assisted at Ground Zero, the Fresh Kills landfill and other related areas following the terrorist attacks of 9-11.
The PBA supported these bills and lobbied to have them passed to benefit rescue workers, including our own members. By nightfall on Sept. 11, 2001, about 600 New York State Police members were deployed in New York City to secure entryways in and out of the City, assist in the recovery efforts and help promote a sense of security among residents. The PBA is very proud of the efforts of our members.
Below is an article from the Staten Island Advance newspaper with further explanations about the bills signed by Governor Pataki yesterday.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
By TOM WROBLESKI
Gov. George Pataki signed three bills into law yesterday to improve health benefits for those who worked at Ground Zero, the Fresh Kills landfill and other spots following the Sept. 11 attacks.
The legislation — including a measure sponsored by state Sen. John Marchi (R-Staten Island) — greatly expands benefits for workers who have died or become sick from toiling in the smoke and dust that hung over the ruins of the World Trade Center and in the debris.
"As it is clear that many champions of 9/11 have developed debilitating illnesses over time resulting from their selfless acts, these New Yorkers need to know that New York state will not abandon them," Pataki said during a bill-signing ceremony adjacent to Ground Zero.
Health officials have warned that it may take 20 years before doctors know the full health effects of Sept. 11 on emergency personnel and civilians who were either engulfed in the airborne remains of the two 110-story World Trade Center buildings in the days immediately after the attack, or spent months afterward removing bodies and debris from the site.
The governor’s office had no immediate estimates for how many people the three new laws would cover or how much money the benefits would involve, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg complained that the legislation would cost the city $500 million over 10 years.
"It’s just another example of the state of New York doing something that they want to do, but making the city pay," Bloomberg said. "There’s no free lunch, and Albany doesn’t seem to understand that."
The mayor said he did not object to the bills’ purpose, "but I want them to fund it if that’s what they want to do."
Pataki said the costs would not be "anything like" Bloomberg’s estimate and a "significant part" would be paid by the state.
The Marchi bill enables many workers who became ill after the expiration of the statutory two-year workers’ compensation filing deadline to resubmit their claims.
"It recognizes that the government has a continuing responsibility to the first responders who worked at Ground Zero and elsewhere," said Marchi counsel Kathryn Rooney.
The second law signed by Pataki permits the families of uniformed personnel who worked at Ground Zero to apply for accidental death benefits.
The third eliminates the statute of limitations so rescue and recovery workers who retired from public service can later have their retirement status reclassified as accidental disability if illnesses related to their work on 9/11 later surface.
"When it comes to honoring those who risked their lives or gave their lives helping us get through the worst attack on America, we have got to do what it takes to help them and to help their families," Pataki said.
He added: "The brave men and women suffering from hidden health issues stemming from Sept. 11 should not be denied benefits because of a statutory time limit that they had no hope of meeting."
Under the current Workers’ Compensation Law, a worker who is injured on the job must file a workers’ compensation claim within two years of the accident.
The new legislation eases the limitation for those who became ill after the deadline had passed by designating these claims as "occupational illnesses."
It further enables a claimant whose illnesses developed over time, and whose claims were previously rejected due to the statutory deadline, to seek reconsideration by reopening his or her claim.
To date, the Workers’ Compensation Board has indexed 10,779 claims related to the World Trade Center attacks. It is unknown how many of those claims relate to Islanders.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS material was used in this report.