Governor Cuomo: "It is hard to believe that any of the brave responders could be neglected when it comes to securing the basic health benefits they need, 17 years after that tragic day. But it's true. I believe that in New York, we take care of our own, and it's far past time we fixed this injustice."
Today, the New York Daily News published an op-ed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo calling for extending unlimited sick leave benefits to New York City EMTs and other New York City employees who served in the 9/11 rescue and recovery efforts. The text of the op-ed is available below and can be viewed online here.
From the moment the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists on 9/11 and for months afterward, men and women from around the state descended on Lower Manhattan, where an around-the-clock operation was underway to first rescue and then recover victims of the worst terror strike on U.S. soil.
These heroes never considered politics, or even their own safety, before rushing into a toxic maelstrom at Ground Zero. They put the lives of others first. And in doing so, they showed the true character of New Yorkers for the world to see.
Today we know that many of those who served at Ground Zero were exposed, fatally in some cases, to dangerous toxins. In the years since 9/11, New York has tried to honor their heroism in part by ensuring health-care protections for those who became sick.
Most recently, we fought to reauthorize the federal Zadroga Bill extending health care to 9/11 first responders for 75 years; we extended a three-fourths disability pension to all members of the uniformed services; and last year I signed a bill into law to provide unlimited paid sick leave to all New York public employees from outside of New York City who became sick serving in the rescue and recovery operation.
Today, the vast majority of New York public sector employees who served at Ground Zero that day and in the weeks and months that followed have access to unlimited sick leave.
But some New Yorkers have been left out in the cold. New York City EMTs and some other New York City employees, who served in the recovery efforts and deserve the same honor and respect, still do not have access to unlimited sick leave.
It is hard to believe that any of the brave responders could be neglected when it comes to securing the basic health benefits they need, 17 years after that tragic day. But it's true.
I believe that in New York, we take care of our own, and it's far past time we fixed this injustice.
This year the New York City mayor's office reportedly blocked legislation in Albany to extend unlimited sick leave to EMTs and other New York City employees.
If the city is going to continue to block this bill, then it should immediately agree to provide the EMTs and other city employees the benefits they deserve. Otherwise, the city should drop its opposition and let the State Legislature pass the bill to extend the benefits and offer some peace of mind to those who served at Ground Zero and their families.
Each and every day, the brave men and women of the uniformed services put their lives on the line for us, and never was their commitment and heroism more evident than in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Last Sept. 11, we honored Raymond Alexander and his son Robert. They were both first responders who rushed to the scene as ash and debris continued to rain onto the streets. Raymond died in November 2016 after battling cancer linked to toxins at Ground Zero. Robert died eight months later, also of cancer related to toxin exposure at Ground Zero.
Before he died, Robert was very active in the successful campaign to renew the Zadroga Bill, federal legislation covering medical costs for those sickened by Ground Zero toxins.
We owe an eternal debt to these men and their brethren who sacrificed and served in the recovery. We have fought hard to recognize their extraordinary contributions and ensure they have the health-care protections they need and deserve. But until we extend the same benefits to all of our World Trade Center heroes, our job is incomplete.