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Crowley pushes for $90M for Ground Zero workers

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U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said he is pushing his colleagues in the House of Representatives to vote for a bill that would allocate $90 million for long-term physical and psychological medical treatment for Ground Zero workers.

Crowley met with U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Long Island) outside of Maspeth’s Engine Co. 280 and said thousands of the rescue and clean-up workers at the World Trade Center site are not receiving enough help for the mental difficulties and physical ailments they are suffering.

Crowley and Israel said they chose to speak at Engine Co. 280 because the firehouse lost 19 firefighters on Sept. 11 and many more have battled physical and mental pain as a result of their Ground Zero work.

“Unfortunat­ely, because of the hazardous conditions (at Ground Zero), long-term health concerns are very real,” said Crowley. The proposed $90 million project “will ensure that workers receive long-term independent medical testing and documentation for any ailments that develop.”

Crowley said the project is part of a bill that will be voted on after congressional leaders meet with senators to confer on the details of the proposed legislation. If the bill passes the House, it will be sent to the Senate for a vote and ultimately it will land on the president’s desk if senators approve it, Crowley said.

Federal dollars currently pay for the medical care of 8,500 firefighters, police officers and medical technicians involved in routine duty as well as Ground Zero volunteers at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Crowley wants to boost that number to about 18,000, he said.

The congressman also wants the medical project to last 20 years, tracking the mental and physical health of Ground Zero workers through examinations after one, five, ten, 15, and 20 years, he said.

Ground Zero workers say that physical and mental ailments have been emerging months after the World Trade Center attack. Workers have suffered asthma, sinusitis and chemical bronchitis, among other illnesses, Crowley said.

Other sicknesses may affect workers in the future as well due to asbestos and other contaminants inhaled around the World Trade Center site.

“We have no idea how (Ground Zero workers’) health is going to be affected down the road,” said Capt. John Dunne of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

Many workers also are battling depression and anxieties that have surfaced only recently, testing their patience and making it difficult to continue working in emergency services, said Don Faeth, vice president of the Uniform Emergency Medical Technicians.

“We’re very concerned about the long-term effects on our workers,” Faeth said.

Crowley and Israel said they were worried that President Bush will try to rein in dollars allocated for treatment of Ground Zero workers because of the nation’s financial struggles.

Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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