The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Saturday, July 07, 2001

Action, at last
Chao delivers on promises


The cleanup of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant is still lagging behind schedule (a fear is that it will always remain behind schedule) but the federal government is proving one thing in Paducah the bureaucracy can move quickly to help sick plant workers and their families.

Paducahans have become accustomed to federal officials breaking promises about the cleanup, so it comes as a major surprise here to learn that one official Labor Secretary Elaine Chao actually delivers on her promises.

Chao has come to Paducah twice in recent weeks to reassure those who initially doubted her commitment to the compensation program for nuclear workers who contracted serious illnesses as a result of their exposure to hazardous materials.

Earlier this year, Chao, worried that the labor department could not get the compensation program off the ground in the time frame established by Congress, sought to shift it to another agency.

But as she came to realize the importance of the program to ailing workers who had put their trust in the government, she also found that no other agency could meet the July 31 deadline for accepting claims.

At that point Chao put the labor bureaucracy in high gear. Within two months the agency was ready to meet the mid-summer deadline.

On Monday Chao came to Paducah for the opening of the first of 10 centers in the nation that will help nuclear workers file claims under the compensation program.

It's noteworthy that while Chao attended to ceremonial duties, resource center employees were already at work helping workers fill out application forms for claims.

The message here is that the labor secretary doesn't just put on political shows; she backs up her speeches with timely action.

That's what plant workers and their families have waited many years for action from the federal government.