PATERSON, NJ- Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-09) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) stopped by St. Joseph’s University Medical Center on Friday to tell a room full of medical professionals, medical staff and reporters about their fight in Washington, D.C. to restore funding to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

It was however, 18-year-old Paterson resident Ziaira Dollar that stole the show. Dollar, a Senior at Paterson’s Charter School of Science and Technology, spoke about her ongoing battle with sickle cell anemia, and the financial struggle her family would face without the CHIP coverage that covers the cost of her extensive treatment at St. Joesph’s Children’s Hospital.

“I am here every month, for two weeks at a time,” Dollar told TAPinto Paterson. Without the CHIP coverage she fears her family could face eviction, that her mother wouldn’t be able to afford a car, and that even putting food on the table would be difficult. And while she sees how “helpful” CHIP has been for her she knows that there are “others that need it more.”

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“Allowing funding to expire for a program as vital as CHIP is an embarrassment to this Congress and to the people we represent. Although members of both parties have pledged to renew money for CHIP, which provides health coverage to millions of low-income children, partisan blockades have stalled negotiations,” said Pascrell.

While claiming that he was keeping himself subdued Pascrell showed every bit of the passion that’s earned him recognition as “Paterson’s number one fighter,” and didn’t hold back in stating that when it comes to fighting Leadership in Washington that have failed to reauthorize the funding “no one is going to run over our children.”

Menendez showed no less passion, sharing his thoughts in both English and Spanish that reauthorizing CHIP is both a moral issue and a financial one. “I never thought the day would come when Congress would put our children’s lives at risk,” Menendez said. The time, he argued, for “empty gestures and excuses” is over and the time is now to fix the “man made crisis” caused by GOP Leadership in the Senate, who, despite unanimous and bipartisan support in the Senate Finance Committee, have failed to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote of the whole body while at the same time showing “no hesitation to borrow trillions for tax cuts for the wealthy.” 

Exhibiting her own thorough understanding of government Dollar offered that it “sucks” that lawmakers would fail to act to insure that she, and others, can afford critical health care. “Government works when it’s beneficial for them,” Dollar suggested, before turning her attention to the doctors and medical staff she encounters monthly at St. Joseph’s who she called “amazing” and on her side which always makes her “feel loved.”