Luján, Leger Fernández Applaud House Passage of RECA Extension

Two-year RECA extension heads to President Biden’s desk

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) applauded the House passage of a two-year extension of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The extension cleared the U.S. Senate with unanimous support last week. Without reauthorization, the RECA program is scheduled to sunset in July.

Over the past decade, Senator Luján has been a champion of strengthening RECA to cover New Mexico Downwinders. As a member of the House, Luján introduced the legislation in previous sessions and convened meetings between House Leadership and radiation exposure survivors. Luján also secured a Congressional apology in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Acts of Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021.

“This two-year extension of RECA is a victory for radiation exposure victims in New Mexico and it gives Congress the necessary time to act on a long-term extension and expansion of benefits and eligibility,” said Luján. “The continued bipartisan backing for this critical issue shows Congress’ commitment to addressing the racial and environmental injustice exposed by the legacy of nuclear weapons testing in the American West. After President Biden signs this extension into law, I will continue to build support for strengthening the current RECA program to include all affected downwinders and individuals who worked with uranium ore after 1971. Though the federal government cannot undo the heartbreak and loss caused by radiation exposure, it can and should take the appropriate steps to fairly compensate victims and their families.”

“In 1945, the United States exploded the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Site in New Mexico. Over the next 48 years, the U.S. conducted more than 200 above-ground nuclear tests. As a result, many communities around the test sites currently suffer from lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, and other serious diseases. Unfortunately, decades later, many New Mexicans continue to fall ill due to radiation exposure. This two-year extension of RECA is a step in the right direction to secure a long-term extension and expansion of benefits and eligibility, but we have more work to do; we can’t turn our backs on our communities,” said Leger Fernández. 

Senator Luján and Representative Leger Fernández will continue pushing for passage of their bipartisan legislation, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, to strengthen the program and compensate individuals exposed to radiation while working in uranium mines or living downwind from atomic weapons tests.

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