President Joe Biden signed an extension of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act today, which lengthens the time that people who got sick after being exposed to radiation from uranium mining and processing or nuclear testing in Nevada have to apply for financial compensation.
This extension keeps the possibility of expanding eligibility open. Currently, people in the Tularosa area who became sick after the Trinity test are not eligible for compensation. U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández and U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, both New Mexico Democrats, are among the lawmakers pushing to expand eligibility to those residents.
The extension received bipartisan support in Congress.
The bill will expand the time period to file claims by two years. Had it not been extended, the program would have ended in July.
The extension was among nine bills that the president signed today, most of which focused on veterans and military.
Luján attended the bill signing. In a press release, he said it has been a top priority for him as a senator to ensure the program does not expire.
“With the President’s signature, we avoided that injustice,” he said. “But this fight is not over. The federal government must do right by all Americans whose lives were impacted by radiation exposure in the national defense effort, and I will continue working to expand this program to include all affected downwinders and post-1971 uranium mine workers. A strengthened RECA program would deliver long-overdue justice for families in New Mexico and across the nation who know the pain and sorrow caused by radiation exposure.”