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US Congress passes health bill for Ground Zero workers

The US Congress approves a bill to fund healthcare for emergency workers involved in rescue and clean-up efforts during the 9/11 terror attacks in New York.

twitter-logoPTI | December 24, 2010 | Updated 09:57 IST

The US Congress has approved a bill to fund healthcare for emergency workers involved in rescue and clean-up efforts during the 9/11 terror attacks in New York.

The US Congress on Thursday passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which will create a multi-billion dollar fund by continuing an increased fee on certain categories of H-1B and L1 visas for skilled workers that would mainly impact Indian IT companies -- and the continuation of a fee on some travelers to this country.

It aims to provide free medical treatment to those who are suffering from illnesses that they contracted while working at Ground Zero in the weeks following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

The bill may erode the profitability of Indian IT companies, among others, as it seeks to raise funds by continuing an increased visa fee regime for skilled workers.

India has slammed the move as "retrograde" and the Indian IT industry said it was disappointing that the US is levying taxes only on overseas companies to meet many of its internal funding needs.

The US had hiked the visa fee in August this year to fund border security and was to be valid till 2014. It will now be in force till 2015.

The previous hike was expected to cost the Indian IT industry an additional USD 200 million a year in visa fee.

Several Indian IT firms avail H-1B and L-1 visas annually to fly their software engineers to the US for working at their clients' locations.

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