Arizona Congressman Greg Stanton is urging House leadership to expand compensation for victims of radiation exposure in the Southwest in a future COVID-19 relief package. 

Stanton says many residents, known as Downwinders, are more vulnerable to COVID because of higher rates of leukemia, lymphoma, as well as brain, lung and pancreatic cancer, among several other conditions.

The federal government established a trust fund for victims of Cold War-era nuclear weapons testing decades ago, but many residents of Mohave County and Clark County, Nev., were left out. Stanton is urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to modify the act’s boundaries in any future federal COVID relief.

“Actions taken by the federal government have made Mohave County residents more vulnerable to COVID-19. This simple—yet meaningful—change would be a step towards justice for Downwinders,” Stanton said in a press release.

Expanded compensation for Downwinders has been introduced several times in Congress as a standalone bill but has never been approved by lawmakers.

Thousands of residents and uranium industry workers in the West were exposed to radiation between 1945 and 1962 as the government conducted nearly 200 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests.