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NYC 9-11 benefit deadline looms

Many responders have become ill, but all responders may be eligible for future benefits Ė if they register in time.

BY MONICA OLIVAS | NEW YORK | September 20, 2009

"Every year that goes by, unless you're reading the Website you donít realize the number of people who become ill, who die"

—Florence A. Coppola, United Church of Christ

Eight years after a terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City, many first responders are suffering health and physiological consequences. The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) and faith-based organizations are trying to educate volunteers and workers to register before a crucial deadline passes.

People involved in rescue, recovery or clean-up are eligible for worker’s compensation benefits. But, they must register by September 11, 2010.

There are hundreds of thousands of people who are eligible, but still haven’t registered. Joel Shufro, Executive Director for NYCOSH, says people are reluctant to register because they feel fine right now, but long-term heath issues may arise and they must register by the deadline.

“A number of people don’t consider themselves exposed when they were. There are a large number of people who just haven’t been reached,” says Shufro.

The first responders to Ground Zero were affected emotionally and physically by the tragedy and sadness of the September 11th terror attacks. While they were trying to help rescue survivors, recover bodies and clean up, they were breathing in the smoke, fumes and dust from the fallen towers and fuselage.

Today many of these people suffer from respiratory illnesses and other long term affects. The United Church of Christ (UCC) and the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health are continuing to work in partnership to serve the needs of these indirect victims of 9-11.

“Every year that goes by, unless you're reading the Website you don’t realize the number of people who become ill, who die,” said Florence A. Coppola, UCC’s Executive Director for National Disaster Ministries.

According to the New York City Health Department, thousands of people responded after the attacks. Many stayed for months cleaning up the destruction and spent all that time breathing in harmful dust. The Health Department states that the full scale of health implications from the attacks is still unknown, but the most common illnesses are chronic asthma and other severe respiratory disease.

“People who just gave their time, their families are suffering the consequences. It’s a very hard situation to be in,” says Coppola.

NYCOSH has extended its worker’s compensation benefits to September 11, 2010. These benefits are available for people who performed rescues, recovery or clean up after the terror attacks.

And Shufro is reminding people that no matter how you helped, you should look into registering.

“Anybody who was here, including people who are out of state. It doesn’t depend on your immigration status. Undocumented workers are eligible,” he added.

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To see if you or somebody you know qualifies you can go to the NYCOSH Website.

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