In its final act before recessing for the holidays, Congress released a massive legislative package extending the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act and delays the Cadillac tax on fire fighters’ health plans. The bill also funds the federal government through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2016, providing additional funding for the Staffing for Adequate for and Emergency Response (SAFER) and Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE Act) grant programs, Urban Search and Rescue teams and other IAFF priority programs.
The IAFF worked with leadership from the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) Local 94, the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) Local 854 and other state and local affiliates to put pressure on congressional lawmakers to get these critically important bills passed.
“Today, the work of fire fighters from across this great nation, countless IAFF locals and state affiliates and IAFF staff has resulted in victory," says General President Schaitberger. "Today, Congress recognizes the sacrifices and commitment of the tens of thousands of fire fighters and other patriots who responded after 9/11 by ensuring they will always receive the health care they need and deserve. Similarly, the two-year delay of the Cadillac Tax marks a much-needed, though temporary, fix to bad tax policy. This delay will provide the time we need to fully repeal this unfair tax.”
Among its many provisions, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 includes:
- Extension of the 9/11 Health program through 2090, effectively making the program permanent
- Extension of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF) for an additional five years and an additional $4.6 billion to pay claims
- Delay of the excise tax on employer-provided health care plans by two years to 2020
- $345 million each for the SAFER and FIRE Act grant programs, an increase of $5 million for each program over Fiscal Year 2015
- $35.18 million for the Urban Search and Rescue Response System
The bill also excludes several harmful provisions the IAFF had lobbied against, including a proposal allowing public employers to replace traditional defined benefit pension plans with insurance annuities and a proposal that would have permanently underfunded wildfire suppression accounts by more than 30 percent.
The House is expected to pass the package Thursday, with the Senate following shortly thereafter.