Congress has approved $60.4 million to administer its new program to compensation nuclear plant workers who became sick or died because of work-related exposure.
The funding was approved Friday as part of the Labor and Health and Human Services funding bill for the 2001 fiscal year.
Current and former workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and other U.S. Department of Energy facilities will be eligible for up to $150,000 in compensation. The funding approved last week is to establish the office to handle claims, according to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.
"This is another victory for the men and women made sick by years of secret exposure to radiation at the plant," McConnell said in a prepared statement released Monday. "I am pleased that this package has moved through Congress so quickly, and I look forward to working with the new administration on the immediate implementation of this plan."
The Clinton administration announced this month that eligibility criteria and the processing of applications for compensation will be handled by the Labor Department. Eligibility criteria are scheduled to be drafted by July 1, and the first compensation payments made in less than a year.
The program will give sick workers or their surviving family lump sum payments of $150,000 plus future medical expenses. The program differs from other compensation programs because the government must prove that certain illnesses were not caused by work-related exposure, rather than putting the burden on the workers.