Congressman Anthony Brindisi (NY-22 D- Utica, NY) is calling on the Trump administration to stop withholding nearly $4 million in funds reserved to provide care to 9/11 first responders. Brindisi said on Friday that he sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin demanding that the critical funding is released.

“Today, we remember all the lives lost on September 11 and keep their loved ones in our prayers. We must never forget their sacrifice," he said.  "We must ensure our government is honoring our heroes," Brindisi added.

Reports surfaced after a NY Daily News story reported on Thursday that "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."

“Diverting this money for any reason is inexcusable, and I demand your agency cease, and fully reimburse the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) World Trade Center Health Program,” Brindisi wrote.

In a NY Daily News follow up story late Friday afternoon, the Feds admitted to mistakenly stripping the funds and say they are working to redirect them properly so that they can continue to benefit first responders affected by 9/11.

Last year, Brindisi played an instrumental role in urging Congress to permanently reauthorize the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF), a separate fund to support 9/11 heroes. The VCF was created to provide compensation for those who suffered physical harm or were killed as a result of the 9/11 terror attack or the debris removal efforts that took place after the crashes. The VCF was set to expire at the end of this year, but has been extended by the Never Forget the Heroes Act, which Brindisi pushed for, and was signed into law by President Trump in July of 2019. The law extends the VCF's filing deadline to October 1, 2090.

Friday was the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Read the letter Brindisi sent to Mnuchin below.

Dear Secretary Mnuchin:

 

I write with grave concerns over recent public reports that the Department of the Treasury has garnished more than $3.7 million in funding that supports the heroic firefighters, police, EMS workers, and other first responders who ran towards danger on September 11, 2001. Diverting this money for any reason is inexcusable, and I demand your agency cease, and fully reimburse the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) World Trade Center Health Program. 

 

In 2010, Congress, on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis, passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which was signed into law on January 2, 2011. This landmark legislation created the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) to provide physical and mental health services for our heroic first responders living with health conditions related to exposures from the September 11 attacks. In 2015, the WTCHP was extended until 2090. Further Congressional action, including the July 2019 passage of the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act (H.R. 1327), demonstrated the bipartisan commitment of Congress to these heroes. We can never fully repay the sacrifice made by our first responders on that horrific day, but these programs are small tokens of gratitude to these brave men and women. 

 

Garnishing even a dollar from this program is intolerable, and your agency must cease at once. The Department of the Treasury must reimburse this funding and provide a full account of why this money was diverted from New York’s first responders in the first place. I look forward to your immediate response. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Anthony Brindisi

Member of Congress