The Zadroga Act expired on the night of Sept. 30 after Congress failed to approve an extension and/or make the law permanent.
The federal health benefits help approximately 70,000 people who are either victims of, or were first responders to, the 9/11 attacks, deal with related health problems, issues and diseases.
The fund has enough residual money to last another year, but legislators have been seeking an extension. "You'd think it would be easy to get this done, considering all the legislators who say they'll never forget, who make promises each anniversary to honor the heroes on 9/11," Sen. Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor, reported Newsday.
The Zadroga Act is named after James Zadroga, a responder who died after working at ground zero. It first became law in 2010.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that it was unacceptable for Congress to let it expire. "Congress must stop putting politics ahead of our heroes' health," de Blasio said in a statement, ABC News reported.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been working with comedian Jon Stewart to make the program permanent, said that letting it expire creates "enormous anxieties and fears in the minds of very sick people."
The act has helped more than 72,000 receive medical monitoring for cancers and other illnesses since it was established. Of this number, more than 1,700 have died.
Congress' lack of action drew ire from many quarters. "I'm almost ashamed to be an American today. They are leaving first responders, on the battle ground, that's what they are. We are dealing with sick and dying members for 14 years," said deputy FDNY chief Richard Alleys, according to Pix11.
As things stand, the program would begin notifying beneficiaries to seek other doctors and insurance during the spring of 2016. The summer of 2016 would see the program prepare to close, and the program will shut down on Sept. 30 of next year.