To mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Governor Kathy Hochul signed three pieces of legislation yesterday to ensure all first responders who participated in the World Trade Center rescue, recovery, and cleanup operations can access benefits available to them. The bills make it easier for WTC first responders to apply for WTC benefits, by both expanding the criteria for defining WTC first responders and allowing online submissions of notice that members of a retirement system participated in WTC rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations.
“As we mark the 20th anniversary of a day that touched the lives of every single New Yorker, we remember those we lost and honor those who are with us today who participated in the World Trade Center rescue, recovery, and cleanup,” Governor Hochul said. “These laws will help not only first responders who were at the World Trade Center on that terrible day and those who cleaned the site for weeks afterward, but also the emergency dispatchers and communications personnel who keep us safe today. We will ensure they receive the support and benefits they deserve.”
9/11 Legislation to Ensure All First Responders Receive the Support They Need
Expanding the Criteria to Define First Responders Who Participated in the World Trade Center Rescue
This legislation (S.4961-B/A.6384-A) expands the definition of a member who participated in WTC rescue. The term “member” will now include any person who is currently a member of a public retirement system, irrespective of whether the employee was a participant of the system at that time. The employee must have become a participant in the retirement system since that time and purchased service credit for some or all of qualifying period.
Senator Andrew Gournardes said, “In the hours, days, weeks, and months after the towers fell, thousands of public workers were sent down to the World Trade Center to begin the difficult work of rescue, recovery, and cleanup. The work they did was nothing short of heroic. Today, twenty years later, many are now suffering from 9/11-related illnesses and tragically, many have already passed away. While a great many strides have been made over the years to ensure those responders received 9/11 disability benefits, a glaring loophole remained that made workers who were not part of the retirement system ineligible for any support or benefits. I’m grateful to Governor Hochul for signing my legislation, S4961, which closes this loophole and ensures that those responders who became members of the retirement system at a later date can still access the same disability benefits that the heroes they worked shoulder-to-shoulder with receive.”
Assemblymember Peter Abbate said, “As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I am happy to see Governor Hochul’s commitment to ensuring that all who were employed in qualified service during the World Trade Center rescue, recovery and cleanup operations will be eligible for the same well-deserved benefits that others have received.”
New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said, “This bill is another important step to ensure that all workers who were involved in the rescue, recovery and clean-up at the world trade center during and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks will no longer be denied the benefits that they and their families are entitled to. In the midst of the current COVID crisis it is truly sobering that it has been such a lengthy struggle for too many selfless heroes; to have to wait so long for the same respect and care that they gave to others. In signing this bill Governor Hochul has shown that she supports our 9/11 heroes and through many other actions she has shown she stands with all workers, who have laid their well-being on the line. We thank her for her commitment and we thank Assemblyman Abbate, Senator Gounardes and the Democratic majorities in the Senate and Assembly for their tireless efforts for our 9/11 workers.”
Increasing Accessibility in Applying for WTC Benefits
This legislation (S.7009-A/A.6934-A) creates an online option for filing a “WTC notice of participation” statement with their retirement system to be eligible for WTC benefits. This bill would allow systems to accept an electronically-submitted “WTC notice of participation” through an online portal, rather than a written statement.
This bill seeks to streamline the system for filing WTC notices of participation by allowing for the electronic filing of these notices with a member’s retirement system to ensure that anyone who participated in rescue, recovery, and cleanup can avail themselves of the world trade center benefits.
Senator Diane Savino said, “On this somber 20th anniversary of 9/11, I thank Governor Kathy Hochul, for acting swiftly and signing this important legislation into law. Allowing a member to electronically submit the WTC Notice of Participation through a secure online portal is just a commonsense use of technology to streamline getting benefits to either the workers or loved ones of those who answered the call during the rescue, recovery and response to the attack on the World Trade Center.”
Assemblymember Peter Abbate said, “I am happy to sponsor this legislation which will authorize an electronic submission of a World Trade Center notice of participation to a retirement system. This simplified system is warranted and will help to ensure more timely filings by eligible individuals, especially during the COVID pandemic. I thank Governor Hochul for her support by signing this bill into law.”
Expanding the Definition of First Responder to Include Communications Workers
This legislation (S.7121/A.7366-A) defines the term ‘first responder in communications’ and requires employers of such first responders to provide training “to maintain and enhance the knowledge, skills and proficiency of such first responder in communications.” This recognizes 9/11 operators and others in such critical positions as first responders.
Senator John Brooks said, “New York’s emergency operators and dispatchers provide invaluable services to us all. It is long past time we remove existing roadblocks that prevent these essential emergency workers from providing the full range of support they can give and denying them of benefits they deserve. Without question, all public safety dispatchers, emergency responders, emergency operators, emergency complaint operators, and emergency services dispatchers are first responders, and it is crucial to the safety and welfare of New York State that they are recognized as such. As a first responder myself, I am grateful to Governor Hochul for signing this important legislation into law.”
Assemblymember Peter Abbate said, “I am honored to be the sponsor of this legislation, and I thank Governor Hochul for signing into law a bill which defines excellence in emergency services and demonstrates New York’s respect for these great public servants. Emergency telecommunicators are the first point of contact for the public in their time of crisis and they truly deserve the recognition that this bill affords them, and the designated title of ‘First Responders in Communications.'”
Local 1549 Clerical Administrative Employees President Eddie Rodriquez said, Local 1549 wants to thank Governor Hochul for signing the first responders in communications bill. Her signature signifies her Administrations respect and acknowledgement of the valuable and unmatched dedicated work-life of 911 Operators. This action sends a very important message that those who labor under very stressful and traumatic circumstances are recognized, valued and entitled to services that will allow them to do their jobs more effectively with less turnover. This signature will boost the morale of these workers and recognizes them for the heroic work they do.”
Suffolk AME President Daniel C. Levler said, “Emergency Operators and Dispatchers are undoubtedly the first responders of first responders, serving at the center of emergency events, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. These essential workers exercise quick-thinking, counseling, and guidance that frequently makes the critical difference between life and death before help arrives. Just recently, Suffolk 911 Operators played a critical role during Tropical Storm Ida, answering 911 calls for relatives whose family members in Queens who were trapped in their basements. On behalf of our 300 Emergency Operators in Suffolk County, I thank Governor Hochul for signing this long overdue legislation into law and giving these men and women first responder status for the first time.”
Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association, FDNY, President Faye Smith said, “We are extremely gratified by the signing of this bill that recognizes the critical, life-saving work performed by New York’s emergency dispatchers and communications personnel.”
Kelly Donoghue, President of the New York 911 Coordinators Association, said, “On behalf of the New York State 911 Coordinator’s Association we want to thank Governor Hochul and the legislative sponsors for their leadership and support of all the 911 coordinators and dispatchers across the state. We feel great pride and respect being included as first responders and will continue to be on the front lines and support our communities.”