Congress has passed a two-year extension of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). The extension cleared both the House and the Senate with unanimous support. Without reauthorization, the RECA program would end in July. Over the past decade, Senator Ben Ray Luján has championed 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.
Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez praised the extension as well. “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.