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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation to Deliver Pension and Health Benefits to 9/11 First Responders, Volunteers and Workers

Governor Andrew Cuomo Flickr Page Photo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation to help ensure first responders and public sector officers and employees who developed a qualifying health condition as a result of their heroic response to 9/11 rescue, recovery and clean-up efforts at World Trade Center sites receive the pension and health benefits they deserve. The Governor also announced that New York will donate an additional $1.8 million to fully fund the capital costs for the 9/11 Memorial Glade. Finally, the Governor posthumously awarded the Public Service Medal to Det. Luis Alvarez, an NYPD Detective and 9/11 First Responder who fought to make the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund permanent.

"9/11 was not 18 years ago - 9/11 is every day. We honor, we remember and we reflect, but it's also our duty to act," Governor Cuomo said. "The 100,000 brave men and women who showed up to help on 9/11 deserve to be taken care of the way they took care of us, and we're not going to leave them alone because they are American heroes. Today, we took action to help ensure they get the health benefits and pension benefits they deserve. We honor them, we honor their families and we honor their courage - and we will repay the debt we owe them the best we can."

"9/11 first responders and volunteers selflessly worked to protect the lives of New Yorkers on that tragic day and remained on the frontlines well throughout its aftermath," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who attended today's event. "This legislation will help to ensure individuals who succumbed to health issues due to their courageous efforts at the World Trade Center sites receive the benefits they need and deserve. We honor their dedication and commitment to bettering people's lives through public service, and their contributions will never be forgotten."

At the 7th annual 9/11 motorcycle ride and ceremony in New York City, the Governor signed six bills:
  • S.5890-A/A.7819-A makes it easier for volunteers at the World Trade Center site who now work for the state to file claims for sick leave by providing a process for public authorities and municipal corporations outside of New York City to obtain reimbursement for line of duty sick leave granted to their employees and allowing certain municipalities and authorities to use sick leave for qualifying World Trade Center conditions. This bill also provides protection to employees while on leave and establishes greater review and oversight of claims processing by state and local governments.
  • S.1966-A/A.3593-A increases the number of physicians authorized to evaluate members of the New York City Employee Retirement System applying for a disability pension. This allows NYCERS to acquire a pool of physicians with the necessary expertise to properly evaluate World Trade Center related disabilities, helping prevent lengthy delays and denials of disability pensions for 9/11 first responders.
  • S.6313/A.7892 extends the time period to file an application for an accidental death benefit after the death of a loved one to five years. This allows the family of members of the New York State and Local Retirement System or the New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System sufficient time to apply for the benefit.
  • S.5898-D/A.8278-C expands World Trade Center disability benefits to include Tier 3 and 4 public employees who are members of the Teacher's Retirement System and the State and Local Employees Retirement System. This bill would provide a final average salary disability retirement benefit and three-quarters disability pension to certain participants in World Trade Center rescue, recovery or cleanup operations.
  • S.5246-A/A.7716-A provides retirees of the New York City fire department who are diagnosed with certain cancers or melanoma a presumption that the cancer was incurred in the performance of duties. The bill establishes a five-year lookback window, making the retirees eligible to receive disability benefits.
  • S.4166-A/A.1801-B establishes September 11th Remembrance Day, which allows for a brief moment of silence in public schools across the state at the beginning of the school day every September 11th. The Governor signed this bill on September 9, and held a ceremonial signing today.

The Governor also announced that New York will donate an additional $1.8 million to the 9/11 Memorial Glade. The 9/11 Memorial Glade is a pathway that honors the ongoing sacrifice of rescue, recovery and relief workers and the survivors and members of the broader lower Manhattan community, who have fallen sick or have died from exposure to toxins in the aftermath of 9/11. The state previously provided $500,000 from Port Authority funds for the project, and this additional $1.8 million will fully fund the capital costs associated with the construction of the memorial.

The Department of Health is providing guidance to health care providers across the state to highlight the health affects 9/11 first responders, rescue and recovery workers and survivors may have been exposed to, as well as mental health or substance use disorder concerns that may have been developed or exacerbated by witnessing the horrific events. The guidance also recommends that all health care providers know how to identify, evaluate, treat and refer patients with conditions that could be associated with exposure to the disaster, and to make referrals to the CDC's World Trade Center Health Program.

Additionally, during the 9/11 motorcycle ride ceremony, the Governor posthumously awarded the Public Service Medal to Det. Luis Alvarez, an NYPD Detective and 9/11 First Responder who fought to make the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund permanent. On June 11, 2019, Det. Alvarez joined dozens of 9/11 first responders to testify before Congress and demand that Congress fully fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund that was set up for police, firefighters and others who worked at Ground Zero. Alvarez died on June 22, 2019 at the age of 53 from complications related to colorectal cancer, which he traced to the three months he spent searching rooftops for victims soon after the towers fell, and on the "bucket brigade" trying to salvage the remains of his NYPD and FDNY brethren. Det. Alvarez's medal was accepted by his wife Alaine Parker Alvarez and his son Tyler.

On exhibit at the Javits Center today are several artifacts from the New York State Museum's September 11th collection. The State Museum is among the largest repositories of artifacts collected and preserved in New York after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Artifacts on exhibit include: a Port Authority Police Department Jeep, a door from an NYPD vehicle and an FDNY vehicle, a United States flag from FDNY Engine 6 and an aluminum fa├žade fragment from the World Trade Center. All artifacts were collected in the months following September 11th.

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