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Feds Defund 9/11 First Responder Health Program

Jessica Hill
AP Photo
Flowers are placed on a September 11th memorial.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says New York City will have to cover a $4 million shortfall to a program that helps 9/11 first responders pay for medical bills. The federal government removed funds to the World Trade Center Health Program to settle debts with the city over several years.

Attorney Michael Barasch represents thousands of 9/11 first responders and survivors. He says his clients will be left untreated during the pandemic while Mnuchin and New York City fight.

“The federal government, which has not exactly been truthful about the severity of this COVID-19, is pulling the rug out from underneath the [New York City] Bureau Health Services, which treats these firefighters. And making it impossible for them to hire as many people that need to be hired to take care of these firefighters.”

At least 21 jobs at the program are left vacant without money for new hires.

Under federal law, the Treasury Department is allowed to deduct from new federal payments when it can’t collect debt. A bipartisan group of New York lawmakers say the WTC Health Program should not be targeted, and urge Mnuchin to put the money back.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.