Page last updated at 22:50 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

US Congressional committee passes 9/11 healthcare bill

By Laura Trevelyan
BBC News, New York

Rescue teams at the ruins of the Twin Towers
Thousands of rescue workers became ill after working at Ground Zero

A bill which would provide long-term healthcare for US emergency workers who fell ill after working at Ground Zero has passed a preliminary stage.

More than 10,000 people have become ill and campaigners say more than 800 have died as a result of contaminants at the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York.

Campaigners and New York politicians have been calling on the US Congress to fund the workers' medical bills.

Now, the first step towards the passage of that bill has been taken.

The health sub-committee of the House of Representatives has voted to approve the James Zadroga 9/11 act, named after a New York detective who became sick and died after working at Ground Zero.

This would provide $11bn (£7.3bn) for long-term health care. The bill had been languishing in Congress, due to the high price tag.

The question now is whether it will be passed by both the full House of Representatives and the Senate.

Many emergency workers are hoping President Barack Obama will sign the bill into law in time for the ninth anniversary of the 11 September, 2001 attacks.

The vote comes as 10,000 of the 9/11 rescue workers who became ill consider whether to accept a $650m settlement from New York City.

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