2015-12-23 / Political Page

Congress OKs New Health Benefits For 9/11 Workers

When Congress passed the extension of the 9/11 Zadroga health and compensation law last Friday, you could hear the sighs of relief from all over America, from the thousands of volunteers who worked in the WTC ruins following the infamous 9/11 attack.

But in our nation’s capitol, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, one of the principal advocates who fought fiercely for the new legislation in the divided chamber, declared.

“Never again,” Maloney stated, referring to the first responders who fought hard to get their benefits continued. “Never again will they have to come to Washington to beg for what they’re entitled to…this is a national scandal.”

Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) had said previously in a prepared statement: “This is not just a victory for New York. It is a victory for America. It demonstrates our highest values and shows the world that when we are attacked, we take care of our own.”

Maloney was the sponsor of the original bipartisan James Zadroga 9/11 Health and and Compensation Act, along with co-sponsors Congressmembers Jerrold Nadler (D–Manhattan) and Peter King (R–Long Island). They also helped to lead the effort to get the program reauthorized, including continued funding and the hope to extend it for a long period so that there wouldn’t have to be a struggle in Congress repeatedly.

As it turned out, US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D–NY), the lead sponsor of the bill in the upper house, reported that the final legislation would “include an effectively permanent 75-year renewal of the World Trade Center Health program and a fiveyear fully funded renewal of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund in the final omnibus spending bill,” which Congress passed.

Gillibrand further stated: “This agreement is incredible news for our 9/11 heroes and their families, and it is a testament to the extraordinary power that Americans can have when they raise their voice and demand action.

“Our 9/11 first responders never should have been forced to travel to Washington and walk the halls of Congress – legislation this important shouldn’t have needed so much convincing – but after dozens of trips, they finally got the job done and convinced Congress to fulfill its moral obligation to our 9/11 heroes. I’m proud to represent them, and I’m grateful for their efforts.”

US Senator Charles Schumer, New York’s senior Senator, stated: “This is the Christmas the 9/11 responders deserved: some peace of mind for each and every hero. Their selfless actions in response to that tragic day deserve a lifetime’s worth of care and respect, so it is welcome news that Congress has finally agreed to fully fund the 9/11 Health Program, providing security to those brave men and women throughout their lives.

“Thank you to Senator Gillibrand, my other colleagues, firefighters, cops, veterans, union workers, and everyone else who fought on behalf of our 9/11 first responders, walking the halls of Congress to win support for these vital health services.”

Maloney, summarizing the history of the lengthy effort to win benefits for the first responders, said:

“Fourteen years ago I became concerned about the health effects of exposure to toxins at Ground Zero. Eleven years ago I introduced the first 9/11 health bill. Five years ago we got it passed. This week we made it permanent.

“We will never fully repay the sacrifices our first responders made following September 11. All they ask of us is that we never forget – and Congress is sending a clear message back: we haven’t. This is a major bipartisan victory for the survivors and responders who were counting on us to get this done.”

Nadler noted, “We could not have reached this day without all your incredible hard work and tireless advocacy on behalf of our 9/11 heroes and survivors, and I’m proud to stand with you today…”

King said, “Passing the Zadroga bill was a long, hard fight for the brave cops, firefighters and construction workers who put their lives and health on the line at Ground Zero. They deserve the very best medical care and treatment and I was proud to be part of this successful effort.”

CROWLEY, MENG HAIL TAX BREAKS THAT MAKE CRITICAL TAX RELIEF PERMANENT: Tax measures, passed by House, Senate and signed into law by the President on Friday, will benefit residents and small businesses in the borough. Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Grace Meng hailed the passage of critical tax breaks that will benefit individuals and small businesses in Queens.

The tax measures will make permanent several tax breaks that Congress has traditionally only renewed on a temporary basis.

Congressman Joe Crowley, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, explained in a news release his vote on legislation that extended and made permanent key tax credits, saying: “While our economy is improving, there is no question that American families are still struggling to get by. This legislation will significantly ease some of the financial burdens faced by hardworking families, and help to provide them with more stability and securi- ty by ensuring that a number of widely-supported tax deductions and credits remain in place.”

“This package of tax breaks is a great holiday gift for residents and entrepreneurs in Queens and New York City, and I was proud to vote for it,” said Meng. “It will send critical tax relief to our region, helping not only with our wallets, but with jobs and the economy. Also, by making these tax breaks permanent, residents and small business owners in the borough will be better able to plan for the future. They will have certainty about the tax breaks for which they qualify.”

Meng listed the following tax breaks as having the biggest impact on Queens:


• The Child Tax Credit (CTC): Helps with the cost of raising children by allowing a $1,000 tax credit per qualifying child under the age of 17.

• The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC): Assists with college tuition costs by permitting a tax credit of up to $2,500 per year for tuition and expenses.

• The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): Aids low and middle income individuals who work. The amount of the credit depends on the employed individual’s income, marital status and number of children.

• Teachers’ Tax Credit: Allows teachers to deduct up to $250 for money they personally spend on classroom expenses and professional development.

• Commuter Tax Credit: Provides relief to mass transit commuters by increasing the amount of pre-tax dollars that can be used for bus and train transportation to work. The current $130 per month limit will be raised to $255 per month, the same amount that those who drive to work can use for parking fees.

Small Businesses

• Research and Development (R&D) Credit: Tax credit for research and development costs for start-ups and established businesses. Designed to spur innovation and research.

• Small Business Expensing: Increases expensing limits for small businesses under section 179 of the tax code by allowing entrepreneurs to expense up to $500,000, up from $25,000, for equipment costs.

• Landlord, Restaurant, Retailer Tax Break: Allows landlords, restaurants and retailers to recover the costs of renovations to commercial buildings over 15 years, a much quicker period of time than exists in current law.

Referring to the EITC, CTC, and AOTC, Crowley stated, “These tax credits are even more valuable to families because they are refundable, meaning that once the tax credit exceeds the amount of taxes owed by an individual, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit.”

In addition, the bill includes provisions to help stimulate our economy, including two bipartisan bills co-authored by Crowley: the Real Estate Investment and Jobs Act of 2015 (H.R. 2128) and the Facilitating Investment in Local Markets (FILM) Act (H.R. 2405). The Real Estate Investment and Jobs Act would remove a 1980’s-era tax provision that discourages foreign investment in U.S. real estate. The FILM Act would extend federal tax incentives to encourage domestic film, television, and theatrical productions, which are increasingly moving overseas.

All of these tax breaks will be available this filing season.

ADDABBO SEEKS FIX UP OF ABANDONED RAIL LINE: After calling upon the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to repair an unused railway in his Howard Beach district. State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. now says he will also ask the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) to get the structure restored.

Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) said he requested DCAS “to immediately repair the unused LIRR railway stanchions” at three locations in his 15th Senatorial District in south Queens. The lawmaker recently announced at a press conference at Yellowstone Boulevard and Kessel Street in Rego Park, where the stanchions supporting the unused railways are located, but are in “serious disrepair and may potentially be a danger to the public.”

Addabbo explained, “The rail was formerly a stop on the Long Island Rail Road, but has been abandoned for decades. Recently, elected officials and community members have proposed several projects that would make use of the structure again, including reactivating the Rockaway Rail Line or creating a “Queens Way” public park space.”

But before any proposal “can be taken seriously,” Addabbo is calling upon city agencies to make sure the structure is safe as it currently stands, with drivers and pedestrians crossing underneath it every day.

Addabbo said he plans to stay in contact with the MTA and DCAS to work toward hopefully repairing the structure in the near future.

STAVISKY ‘DISAPPOINTED’ WITH CUOMO’S VETO OF CUNY/SUNY BILL: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a bill which would have covered mandatory appropriations to the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY), leaving state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, a supporter of the measure “extremely disappointed.”

The lawmaker, the former Chair and current Ranking Democrat on the Senate Higher Education Committee, explained the rejected bill would have covered mandatory costs, including “salary increments, fringe benefits and now personal services costs” to both institutions. There was no indication of why Cuomo vetoed the bill.

Stavisky (D–Flushing) stated, “The state needs to pay its fair share for our public colleges and universities and stop passing the financial responsibility onto the students. It’s as simple as that. In New York City, space is hard to come by. Many of our colleges and community colleges have no choice but to rent offices off-campus in order to be fully operational. We as state legislators must do right by the CUNY and SUNY system and the nearly one million students they serve. I am extremely disappointed with the governor’s decision not to invest in sustaining a quality public college education.”

CONSTANTINIDES AGREES WITH STRINGER DUMPING COAL: Councilman Costa Constantinides (D–Astoria) issued the following statement in reaction to City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s move to divest the city’s pension funds from coal.

Constantinides, joined by Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, stated: “We are grateful to Comptroller Stringer for his support in divesting the city's pension funds from coal, which will impact $33 million of the funds. However, at least $2.67 billion in the city’s pension funds remain invested in other fossil fuels, and we urge the Comptroller to divest from those funds as well. The global climate change agreement adopted last week in Paris underscores the growing movement away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy, and our pension investments must act accordingly or risk losing significant capital. Phasing out of fossil fuels is the best investment in our children and our retirees.

DROMM ON ALLEGED ILLEGAL CONVERSION LISTED ON AIRBNB: Councilman Daniel Dromm (D–Jackson Heights) said he learned about an “alleged illegal conversion of a (3)-bedroom apartment in Elmhurst into 10 small rooms which were listed on Airbnb,” and he issued the following comment:

“I am deeply disturbed by recent allegations, as reported by WPIX 11, of the illegal conversion of a three-bedroom apartment at 88-23 53rd Avenue in Elmhurst into 10 cramped rooms which were then listed on Airbnb’s website by the renters of the apartment.”

Dromm commented: “This is yet another example of how Aribnb incentivizes the depletion of affordable housing stock in New York City, exacerbating our already severe housing crisis. I call upon Airbnb to immediately remove these and similar listings from their website, and call upon the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement to launch an investigation of the owner’s complaint.”

METROCARD VAN COMING TO ADDABBO’S DISTRICT: Constituents of State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. are scheduled to have his MetroCard Van visit them in their south Queens neighborhoods later this month (December 30) in order to assist anyone with their public transportation needs.

On Wednesday, December 30, the van will be stationed at two different locations throughout the day, allowing residents to purchase and/or refill MetroCards, said Addabbo (D–Howard Beach).

On that day the van will be stationed in front of the Howard Beach Senior Center at 155-55 Cross Bay Boulevard from 10 am to noon.

Then it will relocate to the Broad Channel Library, located at 16-26 Cross Bay Boulevard from 1 to 3 pm. At both locations the staff on board will be selling unlimited and pay-per-ride MetroCards and will also be equipped to add money to regular or reduced fare cards, Addabbo said.

Addabbo said, “Many neighborhoods across the city don’t have subway stops, where MetroCard machines are located, and have few places where residents can even purchase a card or refill an existing card. The mobile van provides these commuters with the opportunity to easily purchase and refill cards in places they normally would not be able to.”

The lawmaker explained: “It is an unfortunate reality that there are still a great number of neighborhoods, in Queens especially, that are underserved by public transportation and lack subway stops, which are frequently the only places where MetroCard kiosks are located.

“For people who live in these neighborhoods, or for those who only use the bus as part of their daily commutes, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a place to buy and refill cards. In addition, residents who are elderly or disabled may not be able to travel far to get a MetroCard, but they should not have to suffer because of that.”

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