2 new laws help NJ 9/11 first-responders who fell ill
JERSEY CITY – First-responders whose careers are cut short by illness, such as those who responded to the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, now have easier access to workers’ compensation and accidental disability benefits in New Jersey under new laws enacted Monday.
One new law makes 9/11 first-responders eligible for accidental disability pensions even if they were volunteering at Ground Zero. The other expands workers’ compensation benefits by presuming that ill first-responders are eligible unless it can be proven otherwise – a bill first introduced in 2007 that will apply to more cases than just those resulting from the World Trade Center attack.
Gov. Phil Murphy said the laws strengthen New Jersey’s commitment to all first-responders. He said New Jersey wasn’t the target on 9/11 but suffered tremendously – in both lives lost and illnesses.
“We remember their sacrifice. We honor their service. And today we act to help them when they need that help the most,” Murphy said.
“They will have that peace of mind to know that if they get sick or injured from the tough job they do, then New Jersey will help them in their time of need, just like they help us when we need it,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union.
Both laws take effect immediately.
Among the speakers at the ceremony in the Historic Railroad Terminal in Liberty State Park, near the Empty Sky Memorial, was Allison Canzanella, daughter of Tom Canzanella, a former Hackensack deputy fire chief for whom the new workers’ comp law is named.
“It’s been a very long 12 years without him,” she said, through tears. “But to see that his work is going to help so many people is just so powerful. I’m so proud to be his daughter, every single day.”
“Eighteen years ago, our elected officials promised to never forget the sacrifices people made on September 11th and the weeks that followed,” said Wayne Wolk, executive vice president of the New Jersey State Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association. “Today, our elected officials showed that here in New Jersey, we keep our promises.”
Earlier versions of the workers’ comp bill were vetoed in 2013 and 2016 by then-Gov. Chris Christie, who said that although the work done by first-responders is laudable, a presumption of coverage that in some cases can’t be tied to a work-related incident would be too costly for taxpayers.