Washington: The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to provide medical benefits and compensation for emergency workers who were first on the scene of September 11, 2001 attacks.
Applauding the House for the passage of the bill, US President Barack Obama said, "The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act would ensure that rescue and recovery workers, residents, students, and others suffering from health consequences related to the World Trade Centre disaster have access to the medical monitoring and treatment they need."
"It is a critical step for those who continue to bear the physical scars of those attacks," Obama said in a statement adding, in the face of unspeakable brutality and evil, these brave men and women demonstrated the enduring strength of US values and the American spirit.
The Bill was passed with a 268-160 vote. The Senate is yet to take up the issue.
The Bill was passed after months of contentious debate over whether the federal government has an obligation to pay emergency workers sickened by the smoke, debris and toxic fumes caused by the attacks of 9/11.
Democrats argued that treating those workers was the least the country can do to compensate their service following the disaster.
"The heroes of that day - the firefighters, police officers and other responders who came from across the country and rose to the occasion during one of America`s darkest days - deserve our full support," said Steny H Hoyer, the House Majority Leader.
It provides long-term, comprehensive health care and compensation for thousands of first responders and others exposed to the toxins of Ground Zero following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
"Named for Officer James Zadroga, of New York Police Department who died from respiratory disease contracted during Ground Zero recovery effort, this legislation will: help those who jeopardized their health to rescue others secure necessary medical treatment, especially for the unique exposures suffered at Ground Zero which are real.”
"Ensure survivors and victims` families can obtain compensation for their losses through a reopened 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund," said Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
"It is fully paid-for and does not increase the deficit. It is the least we can do for those who answered the call of duty and continue to suffer the ill health effects of their service," she said.