U.S. Treasury returns money taken from 9/11 FDNY program


Dave Z | Wikimedia Commons

Ushobhan Parajuli

The U.S. Department of Treasury has returned nearly $4 million to the New York City Fire Department’s World Trade Center Treatment Program. The program looks after 9/11 first responders who suffer from lasting illnesses.

The Treasury had withheld $3.92 million since 2004 from the Fire Department’s program because of other debts New York City owes the federal government, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

New York City owes city Medicare debts to the Treasury, however, the Treasury has not provided a detailed explanation for this.

In a letter to Long Island’s Rep. Pete King dated on Oct. 28, Mnuchin wrote that the treasury had finally refunded the amount it secretly withdrew from the 9/11 treatment program. King had written to Mnuchin earlier in June and September, urging him to reimburse the 9/11 treatment program for its services.

“The FDNY World Trade Center Health Program helps provide comprehensive physical and mental health services to all active and retired FDNY members who responded to the 9/11 attacks, at no cost to the program members. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for disbursing funding to the program,” according to CBS 58.

Mnuchin agreed that the city’s firefighters shouldn’t suffer the consequences of federal debt squabbles, but still said it’s on the city to rectify the funding gap.

“HHS has concluded that it has no authority to refund offsets to past payments to FDNY to satisfy valid NYC debts,” Mnuchin wrote. “We agree that it is unfair to burden FDNY with the delinquent debts of other NYC government entities. The City government should directly reimburse FDNY.”

In October, Mnuchin sent a letter to New York City Mayor De Blasio stating that the city should pay the money back, and that if it didn’t, the Treasury Department would redirect future federal payments from other city health programs to make it up.

New York officials are happy with the Treasury’s decision.

“We’re glad the Treasury finally heeded the call and did the right thing here but we’ll keep watching them like a hawk to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, Angelo Roefaro, told CNN,

The missing funding had “directly hindered the program’s ability to hire doctors,” reported CNN. Funding shortages have been felt severely during the pandemic.

With the return of money, the program will be able to hire staff for 21 positions that were vacant due to the funding shortages.