A new report accuses the Trump administration of siphoning almost $4 million away from a fund supporting the 9/11 first responders.
According to documents obtained by the New York Daily News, the Treasury Department began withholding parts of payments intended to cover medical services for firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians suffering 9/11-related illnesses.
These first responders who inhaled smoke and dust at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the terrorist attack, which killed almost 3,000 Americans, have suffered illnesses including cancers and systemic autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, in the almost two decades since.
The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOHS) oversees the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program. The Daily News reports that the Treasury started keeping some of the money earmarked for this program — to the tune of about half a million dollars each year in 2016 and 2017, and $630,000 each year in 2018 and 2019. And the Treasury has nearly tripled these extractions this year, withholding $1.447 million through late August, according to Dr. David Prezant, the program director.
This was disappearing — without any notification,” Prezant, who is also the FDNY’s Chief Medical Officer, told the Daily News. “Here we have sick World Trade Center-exposed firefighters and EMS workers, at a time when the city is having difficult financial circumstances due to COVID-19, and we’re not getting the money we need to be able to treat these heroes.”
Adding insult to injury was that they weren’t given a heads-up about any cuts, he said. “And for years, they wouldn’t even tell us — we never ever received a letter telling us this,” he said.
When Republican Sen. Peter King from Long Island asked the NIOHS and Department of Health and Human Services for an explanation, however, he learned that some other agencies in New York City has been at odds with the federal government over Medicare bills. This resulted in money being cut from the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program to cover the delinquent Medicare debt of these other entities.
The Treasury Department confirmed in an email to MarketWatch that it has been in contact with King, and it is also working with New York City’s Department of Finance to get this resolved
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