Treasury withheld nearly $4M from FDNY 9/11 health program
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin admitted in a letter sent on Oct. 8 to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that the department has withheld approximately $3.92 million since 2004 from the New York City Fire Department’s (FDNY) fund for 9/11 first responders.
The department said that New York City was responsible for the federal debts.
The letter, obtained by The Hill on Friday, states New York City was provided with accounts of all debts dating back to 2004, although the letter does not specifically detail them.
“New York City firefighters are waiting on Secretary Mnuchin to act,” a spokesperson for De Blasio told CNN. “If the Trump administration supports first responders and the fearless men and women who keep Americans safe, then it’s time for them to prove it.”
This comes after the New York Daily News reported last month that documents it had obtained revealed the Treasury Department failed to provide roughly $3.7 million to the first responder fund, with letters from Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) claiming that around $1.5 million was withheld in 2020.
The congressman had written to Mnuchin in June and on Sept. 10, claiming that the department withheld funding for the program due to “a range of issues dealing with different New York City offices and programs that have nothing to do with the FDNY Clinic.”
“It is essential that you release these funds immediately to the FDNY’s World Trade Center Clinic,” King wrote to Mnuchin in September. “Our firefighters should not [be] punished for an administrative issue with New York City’s Department of Finance.”
According to a response from the Treasury Department shared with The Hill last month, the agency told King on Aug. 20 that money from the FDNY’s World Trade Center Health Program was moved to fulfill other debts New York City had with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
In response to Mnuchin’s letter from last week, which was also sent to 30 New York state officials including Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D), FDNY-Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro in a news conference Wednesday called on Treasury officials to immediately address the withholding of funds.
“Can I blame Secretary Mnuchin? I guess I can’t because this has been going on for 17 years, but I would appreciate him fixing it, and fixing it to our satisfaction where the money is returned,” Ansbro said at the news conference. “They can chase down New York City’s debt somewhere else, but on the backs of New York City firefighters who are suffering from 9/11-related illnesses, that’s not acceptable.”
The FDNY World Trade Center Health Program provides free physical and mental health services to both active and retired FDNY personnel who served in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In last week’s letter, Mnuchin said that while it was wrong that FDNY workers were being denied services because of the funding disputes, he claimed it was up to the city to address the situation.
“HHS has concluded that it has no authority to refund offsets to past payments to FDNY to satisfy valid NYC debts,” Mnuchin wrote. “We agree that it is unfair to burden FDNY with the delinquent debts of other NYC government entities. The City government should directly reimburse FDNY.”
According to CNN, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-N.Y.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) wrote Mnuchin a letter Tuesday demanding the funding be returned to the program.
“When it comes to ensuring 9/11 frontline responders can get the medical treatment and monitoring they need, any delay that impacts such care is simply intolerable,” the two representatives wrote.
Updated at 10:48 a.m.
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