President Donald Trump publicly commemorated the 19th anniversary of 9/11 on Friday. However, his administration has secretly siphoned almost $4 million in funds away from a program that was meant to treat FDNY firefighters and medics suffering from 9/11 related ailments.
According to a report released by The Daily News on Thursday, almost four years ago the Treasury Department began withholding parts of payments meant to cover medical services for firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics treated by the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which oversees the program, both authorizes and sends off the payments. But documents obtained by the outlet show that instead of sending the funds to the city as intended, the Treasury mysteriously began keeping some of the money.
“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,” said Dr. David Prezant, the FDNY’s Chief Medical Officer.
“And for years, they wouldn’t even tell us — we never ever received a letter telling us this,” he noted.
Prezant also expressed his dismay about what’s taken place, telling The Daily News, “This is the most amazing thing. This was disappearing — without any notification.”
“It’s disgraceful,” said Long Island Republican Rep. Pete King. “I don’t even care what the details of this thing is. That fund has to be fully compensated, fully reimbursed. I mean, this is absurd,” he said. “If anyone were true American heroes, it was the cops and firemen on 9/11, especially the firemen, and for even $1 to be being held back is absolutely indefensible.”
He also went on to say he plans to confront Vice President Mike Pence during Friday’s Tunnel to Towers event honoring the 19th anniversary of the attacks.
“I gotta tell him,” King said. “Forget the politics. I don’t want to sound naive, but this is terrible, absolutely inexcusable.”
The Treasury Department claimed on Friday that it was required to withhold the money due to debt repayment. There was an outstanding balance of $1,983,452.98 from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
An official told NBC News that the administration is working with King to resolve the matter.
“Our, and Rep. King’s, only goal in this is to get the FDNY its funding — we have done everything within our power to try and resolve this issue and are continuing to work with the city while also looking into possible alternate ways of making this happen,” the official stated.
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!