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New York Post

Governor to Sign Bill for Tragic WTC Heroes

By KENNETH LOVETT in Albany and STEPHANIE GASKELL in N.Y.

 August 14, 2006 — Gov. Pataki is expected to sign a bill today that would allow families of 9/11 first responders who died as a result of the terror attacks to collect accidental-death benefits.

He'll also announce administrative changes to let afflicted workers get treatment while they wait for their claims to be processed.

The bill signing will take place at the World Trade Center site - but Mayor Bloomberg won't be there.

At first, Bloomberg said he opposed the bill because it would cost the city too much money. Then, last week, he said he needed more proof that the conditions at the site caused death or illness.

"You have to make sure there is a connection between what they did and what happened," he said last week.

Pataki, however, vowed to "do everything we can to protect" those who worked at the site.

The governor will also sign a bill that will extend the time that 9/11 first responders can file a worker's compensation claim. Instead of a two-year deadline kicking in from the day of the attack, the new law would allow sick first responders to file a claim within two years of showing symptoms.

Aides said the governor will also unveil administrative measures aimed at helping claimants get access to care - even procedures that are very expensive.

Meanwhile, aides to Pataki said a nun who spent six months blessing human remains in the rubble at Ground Zero and is now dying of lung disease would be able to start receiving benefits immediately.

The Post reported yesterday that Sister Cindy Mahoney, 54, said she wants her body autopsied to prove that she was sickened by the poisonous air at the site.

She is being treated at a hospital in South Carolina.

Pataki spokeswoman Joanna Rose said that the nun could get immediate benefits if she files a worker's compensation claim as a volunteer.

"As long as someone says, 'Yes, she was there,' she could start receiving health-care benefits," Rose told The Post.

A spokesman for Bloomberg declined to comment.

The death benefits legislation was spurred by retired Detective James Zadroga's January death from lung disease.

A coroner blamed toxic fumes he breathed while toiling for 470 hours at the trade-center site.

At present, death benefits are granted only to the family of an officer who dies in the line of duty.

Families of retired responders who died after working at Ground Zero are now entitled to the less generous "accidental disability pensions."

kenneth.lovett@nypost.com

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