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David Jolly supports reauthorizing funding for 9/11 first responders

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Marc Kadushin was working near the Brooklyn Bridge in Lower Manhattan for the New  York City Department of Transportation when the two airplanes hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2011. He immediately went to work in assisting with traffic conditions and aiding uniformed rescue crews help get people out of the area which will forever be known as Ground zero. He continued working for weeks there after the attacks, inhaling an enormous amount of dust that permeated the area.

Along with tens of thousands of others who worked near Ground Zero, he ultimately ending up suffering physically afterwards. His maladies included issues with breathing, developing sleep apnea and a host of psychological troubles. It wasn’t as bad as his partner, Robert Paciullo, though. He fell into a coma for 37 days at Staten Island University Hospital before regaining consciousness. He now suffers from asthma and has to move around with the assistance of a walker now.

The 63-year-old Kadushin moved to Palm Harbor in 2007, and met Congressman David Jolly at the Belleair Women’s Republican Club a year ago to tell  him about his plight, asking him if he could support the reauthorization of the  James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act when it came up for renewal this year. The law provided over $4 billion in health benefits to tens of thousands of people who participated in Sept. 11 rescue efforts. Republicans in 2010 stipulated that the health program could only last five years, citing concerns about cost, effectiveness and the possibility of fraud.

“He seemed to be interested, and two weeks later, his chief of staff, J.D. White, called me and said the Congressman is looking into this,” recounts Kadushin. “He called me the following day and said ‘Congressman Jolly is going on’, and I was like, wow.”

Kadushin, a registered Republican who had never met Jolly until then, said he was “very impressed” by the Pinellas Congressman’s support, considering so many other Republicans have opposed it. “I don’t understand why they’re not on this,” Kadushin says, specifically mentioning Pasco/Pinellas Congressman Gus Bilirakis and Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s refusal to support the bill (Florida Politics contacted Rubio’s office for comment, but did not hear back).

“You’d think that somebody who wants to be president and talking about veterans and family values would be out there waving a flag, not just become a co-signer of the legislation,” says a somewhat bewildered Kadushin.

Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart’s impassioned advocacy on his comedy show helped get the legislation passed originally right before Christmas in 2010. He returned back to Washington this past week to focus attention on the fact that bill could expire shortly.

“I want to apologize to all the men and women, first responders, that you had to come down here today,” he said this past Wednesday. “I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed for our country. I’m embarrassed for New York. I’m embarrassed that you, after serving so selflessly with such heroism, have to come down here and convince people to do what’s right for the illnesses and difficulties that you suffered because of your heroism and because of your selflessness.”

“First responders and survivors, including those in Pinellas, continually face high costs of medical care to treat the numerous ailments they continue to suffer from due to toxin exposure at Ground Zero,” says Jolly in a statement sent to Florida Politics.  “That is why I have cosponsored H.R. 1786, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act.  This important legislation would make permanent existing compensation and assistance programs for victims, survivors, first responders and their families.  This common sense legislation ensures that those Americans who gave so much in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center are able to continue to utilize programs that ensure quality health care and financial assistance.”

Kadushin, who says he began working in the NYC Dept. of Transportation after working on Rudy Guiliani’s mayoral campaign, says it’s “shameful” that the entire Congress isn’t behind the bill. “I’m very, very pissed at the Republican now.”

“How disrespectful can you be?” he asks.

“When these individuals run for political office and they have a problem…or they need a first responder for a medical issue, they know to call 9-1-1, “says Kadushin. “And when they need to reciprocate on a rare issue like now, they’re getting amnesia, and that isn’t really the right way to conduct business.”

In Florida there are 2,183 former New York City  or Washington D.C, first responders living in Florida, and 38 in Congressman Jolly’s Pinellas County District.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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