Toxic exposure at Ground Zero has sickened thousands of first responders, many of whom have sought assistance from the World Trade Center Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. Unfortunately, these beneficial programs do not meet the most immediate needs of these victims: paid leave during treatment for cancer and other debilitating illnesses. As a result, many responders exhaust their paid sick leave and either go on disability at a reduced rate of pay or have their disability claim denied, forcing them to rely on their savings. Certainly this is no way to treat the heroes who responded so valiantly on 9/11 and in the days, weeks and months that followed. Fortunately, the New York State Legislature and Governor Cuomo agree.
Last year, Governor Cuomo signed a law designed to ensure that former NYC first responders who had moved out of the city and were working for other government agencies had the same benefits as members of the New York City Police Department, New York City Fire Department, New York City Department of Correction and New York City Department of Sanitation. The 2017 law allowed unlimited paid sick leave for public employees at state agencies, authorities and municipalities outside New York City, who had developed illnesses due to their rescue, recovery and clean-up activities at Ground Zero. However, it soon became clear the law did not go far enough: it left out responders who came from other areas of the state and classes of employees, such as utility workers, who are not generally considered first responders.
As Yonkers firefighters union president and 9/11 first responder Barry McGoey attested, “Many first responders from the surrounding community and all of the state of New York [are] becoming ill many years later and are forced to use their own sick leave.”
To close the coverage gap, a bipartisan bill has been introduced in the Senate and the Assembly that would grant unlimited sick leave to 9/11 responders throughout New York State to seek treatment for 9/11-related conditions.
As attorneys who have been fighting for 9/11 compensation since the beginning, Barasch & McGarry supports expanding unlimited sick leave to all who served. We look forward to Governor Cuomo signing the bill and opening these benefits to those who deserve them.
For a free consultation with a knowledgeable attorney who can help you obtain the benefits you deserve, please contact us online or call Barasch & McGarry at [ln::phone].