NEW YORK - A medical program for survivors of the September 11 attacks is said to be "dangerously" close to running out of funding and advocates are sounding the alarm and asking congress to step in.
The World Trade Center Health Program is short $3B and if Congress doesn't plug that gap, advocates say people sick with 9/11-related illnesses will be at risk of losing their treatments.
"We have countless responders and survivors that are on lifesaving medicine. Without the funds to pay for the prescription coverage, they'll lose that," said Richard Alles, a retired FDNY Deputy Chief and the Director of 9/11 Community Affairs.
The healthcare program is not just for first responders like firefighters and police officers, it covers anyone who lived or worked south of Canal Street on 9/11 and for the year that followed, many of whom do not have health insurance.
"There are tens of thousands of people affected by 9-11. They have no insurance and they rely on the World Trade Center health program," said John Feal, Founder of the FealGood Foundation.
Attorney Michael Barasch represents thousands of 9/11 survivors suffering from illnesses from breathing the toxic air from Ground Zero. Most first responders have enrolled in the World Trade Center health program, but he says thousands of other people do not even realize they are eligible to enroll.
"Less than ten percent of the office workers, students, teachers, and residents are enrolled. They were breathing the same toxins. They're coming down with the same illnesses," Barasch said.
Advocates say they are going to keep pushing Congress to fund the program and they are hoping the government pledges the money needed by the end of the year.