Legislation extending RECA program for two years passes Senate
Washington, D.C.--The U.S. Senate unanimously agreed to extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) program for two years, allowing individuals more time to apply for the compensation they deserve. U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), a longtime Senate lead on RECA expansion efforts, applauded the extension, and reiterated the need for additional efforts to expand the program to include coverage for all of those who lived downwind of above-ground atomic weapons tests in the 1950s and 1960s. The legislation is now headed to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration. Without reauthorization, the RECA program is scheduled to sunset in July.
“The Senate’s action to extend the RECA program for two years is critical to providing compensation downwinders rightfully deserve,” said Crapo. “The House should move quickly on the extension and send the legislation to the President to be signed into law. Far too many innocent victims have been lost to cancer-related deaths from Cold War era above-ground weapons testing. More must be done to assist those still with us not currently covered under the program.”
“A heartfelt thank you to the Senate for passing this extension,” said Tona Henderson, Executive Director of Idaho Downwinders. “We still have the task of amending RECA. Expanding to more areas so all the Downwinders who are not covered now, will have the time to apply. We need to compensate all the states that were harmed during testing, which is exactly what Sen. Crapo and Sen. Luján’s bill S 2798 will do. Compensating only a few counties or individual states does nothing to help all the Downwinders throughout the West who have suffered for 70 plus years — many of whom have already lost their lives and many that are still struggling. We applaud Senator Crapo and Senator Luján for leading the charge.”
“Preserving and expanding the RECA program to provide long overdue justice to New Mexico downwinders and uranium workers is one of my top priorities in Congress. The Senate took a critical step to extend the RECA program ahead of the program’s July sunset date,” said Luján. “Now, the House must swiftly pass this legislation and send it to President Biden’s desk. Congress cannot let the RECA program expire and must continue to work to expand and strengthen RECA.”
In March 2022, Senators Crapo and Ben Ray Luján (D-New Mexico) led a bipartisan letter urging Congressional Leadership to extend RECA. The legislation the Senate passed provides a clean, two-year extension of the RECA program.
Senator Crapo will continue pushing for passage of his bipartisan legislation, S. 2798, which would extend and expand eligibility under the RECA program. S. 2798 would expand the coverage area to allow more potential victims, known as “downwinders,” to file for compensation under RECA. While the original RECA program only covered parts of Utah, Nevada and Arizona, this legislation would expand the geographic downwinder eligibility to include then-residents of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Guam.
Crapo chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the RECA program in June 2018. Tona Henderson, of Emmett, Idaho, and head of the Idaho Downwinders organization, provided testimony in the hearing and paid tribute to those in her community who have passed away due to radiation-related illnesses. Her birthplace of Gem County, Idaho, received the third-highest amount of fallout in the nation according to a 1997 National Cancer Institute study.