President Barack Obama said Sunday he was honored to sign a bill to provide aid to survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and first responders who became ill working in the ruins at the World Trade Center.

“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 named after a police officer who died of a respiratory disease he contracted during New York’s rescue operations. The bill was one of the last measures Congress passed before adjourning in December.

Some Republicans tried to block the measure, saying they were concerned with how to pay for the bill. They dropped their opposition after lawmakers struck a compromise to reduce the costs.
The $4.2 billion measure will be paid for with a fee on some foreign companies that get U.S. government procurement contracts.

“At long last, the President’s signature has ended our nine-year struggle to address the 9/11 health crisis. The Zadroga law will save lives and fulfills our moral obligation to care for those who rose to the defense of America in a time of war,” said Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney.

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