FDNY says Treasury withheld $3.7M from 9/11 first responder fund

FDNY says Treasury withheld $3.7M from 9/11 first responder fund

The Treasury Department withheld roughly $3.7 million from the New York City Fire Department’s (FDNY) fund for its 9/11 first responders, according to documents obtained by the New York Daily News

The program was established in the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act passed by Congress in 2010. The newspaper reported Thursday that four years ago the Treasury Department began withholding payments to the FDNY’s World Trade Center Health Program without giving an explicit explanation. 

“This was just disappearing,” the program’s director, David Prezant, told the News. “This is the most amazing thing. This was disappearing — without any notification.”

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“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,” Prezant added.

The program’s administrative director, Jessica Weakley, confirmed the News’s reporting to The Hill and said that the withholdings amounted to roughly $3.7 million.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline Vulnerable Democrats tell Pelosi COVID-19 compromise 'essential' Pelosi asks panels to draft new COVID-19 relief measure MORE in June after receiving complaints from constituents.

According to a response from the Treasury Department shared with The Hill, the agency told King on Aug. 20 that money taken from the FDNY’s World Trade Center Health Program was taken to fulfill other debts New York City had with the Department of Health and Human Services. 

The offsets the Treasury Department has accounted for between 2016 and May 2020 amount to $1.9 million, not the $3.7 million FDNY says was withheld. The agency said it is working with New York City’s Department of Finance to find a solution.

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“Treasury adhered to its statutory obligations established by Congress regarding debts owed by New York, but we are also working with Congressman King and others to examine any potential authorities to provide relief in this case to support our nation’s 9/11 heroes,” a Treasury Department official told The Hill.

New York lawmakers reacted to The News’s reporting — which came the day before the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — by calling on the Treasury Department to restore full funding to the program. 

“The Trump Treasury Department siphoning funds meant to pay for 9/11 workers’ healthcare is outrageous,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Cruz blocks amended resolution honoring Ginsburg over language about her dying wish MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted Friday.

New York Rep. Max RoseMax RoseLawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep Navy cancels training flight over NYC on 9/11 after criticism MORE (D) posted a tweet saying Mnuchin “doesn't need to give us answers, he needs to give our heroes the money they're owed. Yesterday.”

According to the News, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) wrote to Mnuchin over the summer after receiving complaints from constituents. 

“I gotta tell him,” King told the News. “Forget the politics. I don’t want to sound naive, but this is terrible, absolutely inexcusable.”

Updated 2:27 p.m.