After more than 14 years, the wait for government compensation is over for a number of first responders suffering from 9/11-related illnesses. On Tuesday, officials announced that a group of payments totaling more than $233.4 million were being delivered to more than 1,000 firefighters, police, and emergency personnel. “We have shifted more staff to focus on payments and I am proud we exceeded our first interim target,” said Sheila Birnbaum, the special master of the Victim Compensation Fund, in a statement on the fund’s site.
These payments were made possible thanks to the December reauthorization of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Although parts of the Zadroga Act expired on September 30, renewal from Congress stalled for some months. Despite adamant support on behalf of officials like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Bill de Blasio, certain members of Congress, including presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, opposed the decision. Nevertheless, the act, which provides necessary health care services and compensation for 9/11 survivors and first responders, received a strong vote from the House of Representatives—316 to 113 in favor of its continuation for another 75 years (although the victim fund itself only received a five-year extension).