NEW YORK — In a rare show of bipartisanship, all 27 members of New York’s congressional delegation are expected to sign on to a letter calling on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to “immediately” return millions of dollars that the Trump administration has taken from the FDNY’s 9/11 health care program, the New York Daily News has learned.
The letter comes in response to reporting by The News revealing that the Treasury Department has over the past four years withheld nearly $4 million from the FDNY’s World Trade Center Health Program, which bankrolls medical services for the city agency’s 9/11 survivors.
The Mnuchin missive, which The News obtained, was still being circulated among New York’s 21 Democratic and six Republican members of Congress on Thursday afternoon, but a source familiar with the matter said he expected “virtually the whole delegation” to sign. The letter will be sent late Thursday or early Friday, the source added.
Spearheaded by Republican Rep. Peter King and Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, the letter says the Treasury Department’s money grab is keeping the FDNY program from providing “the medical treatment and monitoring that our 9/11 responders need and deserve.”
“We urge you to immediately direct your staff to release the full amount of these payments so that the healthcare and well-being of our nation’s heroes is not put at risk over an unconnected dispute,” the lawmakers wrote.
A spokesman for Mnuchin did not immediately return a request for comment.
Treasury officials have previously said they siphoned the money from the FDNY program to offset some of the city’s unrelated Medicare debt.
Though they’ve refused to go on the record, the Treasury officials say the cash was inadvertently stripped from the FDNY due to a bureaucratic snafu, wherein money was automatically pulled from the 9/11 fund because its tax ID matched the tax ID for the city’s Medicare debt.
However, the New York pols noted that the clawbacks have been going on for years — even though the 9/11 program’s director, Dr. David Prezant, has repeatedly asked the Treasury Department why his funds were being docked.
“While we do not take a position on that dispute,” the lawmakers wrote of the Medicare debt, “we are unanimous in our belief that under no circumstances should funds meant for 9/11 responders be caught in the crossfire.”
The Mnuchin letter came one day after most of New York’s congressional Republicans spoke out in unison against the Trump administration’s FDNY fund fumble. The only Republican who didn’t voice opposition was Rep. John Katko of the Syracuse area, whose representatives didn’t return repeated requests for comment.
In addition to the tax ID finger-pointing, Treasury officials have claimed they only took $2 million from the FDNY fund — an assessment disputed by Prezant, who says he’s been deprived of at least $3.7 million.
King, who’s helped lead the charge for getting the cash back to the 9/11 fund, questioned why the Treasury Department is wasting time on calculations.
“We don’t care what happened — we know it was wrong,” King said in an interview Thursday morning. “It’s like sending somebody an analysis to say, ‘This is how we stole your money.’ It doesn’t help us to get the money back.”
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