Cuomo signs bill providing sick leave for more 9/11 responders

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office
Gov. Cuomo, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and US Sens. Gillibrand and Schumer pay respects to victims of 9/11 Monday in New York City. Gov. Cuomo signed a bill Monday extending sick leave benefits to more first responders who helped clean up Ground Zero.

A bill providing unlimited sick leave to a larger group of 9/11 first responders was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the 16th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks.

Under the bill (S.6398-a/A.7901-a), public employees suffering from illness as a result of the rescue, recovery and clean-up at Ground Zero, will not have to use their own accrued sick time as they seek treatment.

The law, which takes effect immediately, was sponsored in the Senate by Martin Golden, R-Brooklyn, and in the Assembly by Peter Abbate, D- Brooklyn.

“The first responders who led the recovery efforts on that day, and the weeks and months that followed deserve the very best health care and assistance New York has to offer,” Golden said. “I commend the governor for signing this legislation as we will continue to support these heroes.”

The new law was written for public employees at state agencies, authorities and municipalities outside New York City to provide the same benefits as police, firefighters and city employees who became sick from working at Ground Zero.

“During our darkest hour, the strongest and bravest among us rose through the destruction and pain to assist in response efforts at the World Trade Center site,” said Assemblyman Peter Abbate, “These heroic men and women put all they had on the line to help those in need and now, 16 years later, we must return the favor.”

Senator Todd Kaminsky, D–Long Beach, says the legislation that he supported will help ensure that these heroes no longer suffer financial penalties as a result of their actions in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York City.

“Far too many of the courageous first responders from those terrible attacks continue to battle cancer and other illnesses caused by debris at Ground Zero,” Kaminsky said.

The senator points out that many of his constituents are former first responders employed by the city who took jobs outside of the city and still need health care.

The law extends an existing New York City policy to those who have left city employment for other jobs. Prior to the signing of the law, these New Yorkers, many of whom are Senator Kaminsky’s constituents, faced difficulties seeking relief for chronic illnesses contracted as a result of 9/11. They were previously ineligible for “line of duty” benefits.

Similar paid leave benefits are currently available for New York Police Department, New York Fire Department, New York City Corrections and New York City Sanitation for injuries and illnesses obtained in the line of duty. Outside of New York City, municipalities provide similar line of duty coverage for their paid police officers and fire fighters.

“That day not only saw unimaginable devastation, but also unprecedented kindness,” said Chairman of the 9/11 Workers Protection Task Force, Lou Matarazzo, “First responders from near and far rushed to the aid of thousands of victims of the WTC attacks to help and now today, they need our help.”