On August 12, 2016, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce hosted a seminar and workshop aimed at informing Chinatown residents about the billions in federal funding available to treat and financially compensate individuals suffering from 9/11-related illnesses under the Zadroga Act. Hundreds of local residents packed the community room at Confucius Plaza for the Friday afternoon event to learn about available 9/11 benefits from Pitta Giblin & Baione partners Christopher and Matthew Baione. Many Chinese language media outlets were on hand including Epoch Times.
The event opened with comments and concerns from community leaders Virginia Kee, co-founder of the Chinese-American Planning Council and the United Democratic Organization, Jenny Low, Democratic District Leader for Chinatown/Lower East Side, Justin C. Yu, Chairman of CCCNY, Kenny Leung, Vice Chairman of CCCNY, and Yuh-Line Niou, Chief of Staff to Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim and Democratic Candidate for the 65th Assembly District.
Virginia Kee and Jenny Low discussed their own personal experiences with 9/11-related diseases. They explained how they missed out on years of free healthcare, and missed critical compensation deadlines, because they were completely unaware that the World Trade Center Health Program and 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund exist. Kee and Low stressed that they did not want their fellow Chinese-Americans to fall victim to the same issues due to lack of knowledge about these federal benefit programs.
Christopher Baione explained that the programs are not limited to 9/11 responders: anyone who lived, worked, visited or attended school below Canal Street between 9/11/01 and 5/30/02 may be eligible for free healthcare and compensation. Mr. Baione declared Pitta & Baione’s commitment to help Chinatown residents complete the World Trade Center Health Program’s application process at no charge.
Many of the attendants stressed their complete lack of knowledge of the programs, and expressed outrage at the government’s lack of community outreach. Especially those who developed cancer or who had a loved one die from a condition covered by the World Trade Center Health Program and 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. Unfortunately, many missed the current deadline of two-years from diagnosis date to file a claim. One 91 year-old man stood up to proclaim that he had been waiting 15 years for this day, and lamented that he already buried his wife who died of cancer.
State Assembly candidate Yuh-Line Niou expressed her concern that due to lack of government outreach and language barrier issues many Chinatown residents will miss out on these potentially life-changing 9/11 benefits. Jiou promised she will fight to ensure that Chinatown residents are aware of 9/11 benefits available to them and that they receive access to the World Trade Center Health Program.