President Barack Obama signed bill H.R. 847 into law on Sunday that will provide aid to survivors fo the September 11 attacks and first responders who became ill after working the ruins of the World Trade Center, the Associated Press reported.

“We will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by the firefighters, police officers and first responders who risked their lives to save others,” Obama said in a statement. “I believe this is a critical step for those who continue to bear the physical scars of those attacks.”

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was one of the last bills that Congress passed before adjourning in December, and will cost nearly $4.2 billion; it is named after a police officer who died of respiratory disease caused by the 9/11 rescue operations.  The bill is designed to improve health services for 9/11 first responders that were exposed to toxins during their emergency operations on that day  and in the aftermath of the attacks. The legislation will provide a federal program of medical monitoring and treatment for first responders, health screenings to individuals who were in the downtown New York area that may be at risk, and reopened the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to provide financial assistance for losses and harm. Although some Republicans initially blocked the measure out of fear of how the bill would be paid out, they later dropped their opposition when a compromise was made to reduce the costs.

Obama signed the bill privately in his rented oceanfront home in Hawaii where he was on vaction with his family.

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