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“It’s Disgraceful” – The New York Daily News Reports The Trump Administration ‘Secretly Withheld’ Millions Of Dollars From The FDNY 9/11 Health Program

Published Friday, September 11, 2020
by Michael McAuliff/New York Daily News
“It’s Disgraceful” – The New York Daily News Reports The Trump Administration ‘Secretly Withheld’ Millions Of Dollars From The FDNY 9/11 Health Program

(NEW YORK CITY) - The Trump Administration has secretly siphoned nearly $4 million away from a program that tracks and treats FDNY Firefighters and Medics suffering from 9/11 related illnesses, The New York Daily News has learned.

The Treasury Department mysteriously started withholding parts of payments - nearly four years ago - meant to cover medical services for Firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics treated by the FDNY World Trade Center Health Program, documents obtained by The News reveal.

The payments were authorized and made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which oversees the program - but instead of sending the funds to the city, the Treasury started keeping some of the money.

“This ‘was just disappearing,’” the Program’s Director, Dr. David Prezant, told The News. “This ‘is the most amazing thing.’  ‘This was disappearing - without any notification.’”

Prezant said he was docked about half a million dollars each year in 2016 and 2017.

Then it crept up to about $630,000 in 2018 and 2019.

This year, Treasury has nearly tripled its extractions, diverting $1.447 million through late August, according to Prezant.

“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 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.’”

Prezant was never able to get an explanation from NIOSH or the mammoth Department of Health and Human Services which has the agency under its umbrella.

After years of complaining, Prezant did get a partial answer when Congressman Peter King (Republican-Long Island) put his political weight behind the inquiry.

That answer was that some other agency in the city has been in an unrelated feud with the Feds over Medicare bills.

For some reason, the Treasury decided to stiff the FDNY.

Neither the Treasury Department nor the White House answered requests for comment.

King said whatever the circumstance is that forces a premier program for sick 9/11 First Responders to go begging for help on the eve on the 19th anniversary of the attack - it has to end.

“It’s ‘disgraceful.’  ‘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 one dollar to be being held back is absolutely indefensible.’”

King wrote to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin over the Summer asking what the problem was and for a solution.

He got no response and has fired off another letter.

King said he also intended to confront Vice President Mike Pence today (Friday, September 11th), when both attend the Tunnel to Towers event honoring the anniversary: “I ‘gotta tell him (to) forget the politics.’  ‘I don’t want to sound naive, but this is terrible, absolutely inexcusable.’”

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