Trenton, NJ – Governor Phil Murphy recently signed A4882 and S716 into law, which will enhance protections for first responders, including those who volunteered for 9/11 rescue, recovery, and clean-up efforts at World Trade Center sites.
“Thousands of courageous volunteers put their lives on the line in order to save those affected by the devastation of 9/11,” said Governor Murphy. “We will never forget their selfless acts of heroism, just as we will always be grateful for the first responders who put their lives on the line for us every day. Today we send a clear message to all of our heroes: We have your back. I am proud to sign legislation that will ensure the health benefits and compensation that these incredible men and women deserve.”
A4882, also known as “the Bill Ricci World Trade Center Rescue, Recovery, and Cleanup Operations Act,” is named after Lieutenant Bill Ricci, a professional firefighter in Clifton, Passaic County, who volunteered to serve at Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Lieutenant Ricci was ineligible for an accidental disability retirement under previously existing law. However, through this act, members and retirees who volunteered for 9/11 rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations, like Lieutenant Ricci, will be eligible to receive accidental disability retirement. This act will also create an exception to the normal five-year filing requirement for 9/11-related operations.
S716, also known as “the Thomas P. Canzanella First Century First Responders Protection Act,” is named after Deputy Chief Thomas P. Canzanella, a former Hackensack firefighter and advocate who served at Ground Zero after 9/11. Deputy Chief Canzanella, who was an IAFF state representative, passed away from a heart attack at the age of 50. In 2016, Governor Christie absolute vetoed a previous version of this bill.
Under previously existing law, first responders and firefighters had the burden of proving causation for their illnesses, which often required a significant expense of time and resources. This new law reforms New Jersey’s workers’ compensation law to create a rebuttable presumption of coverage for public safety workers for certain illnesses. For firefighters, those with seven or more years of service who suffer an injury, illness or death caused by certain types of medical conditions would not be required to demonstrate causation or exposure before receiving medical benefits and financial compensation. Other first responders, including first-aid or rescue squad members, police, corrections officers, nurses, medical technicians, and other medical personnel, are also not required to demonstrate causation of illnesses, but are required to provide evidence of exposure.
“The Labor Department works hard to ensure that workers receive all the benefits they are entitled to under the law, and this is especially true for our first-responders,” said New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “I’m proud to see that New Jersey’s brave men and women on the front lines, who run toward danger to keep the rest of us safe, will now have access to benefits if they become sick or disabled as a result of their heroism on 9/11, and will be taken care of in any future emergency.”
“I am glad that the lawmakers were able to come together on this so quickly to help us,” said Lieutenant Bill Ricci, City of Clifton Firefighter. “It’s great how there were changes made on the fly to help more people as they became aware of the need. Hopefully, only a few will require this legislation, but it’s here now to help all that need it.”
Source: NJ Governor’s Office