US President Donald Trump's administration has been accused of "siphoning" close to $4 million from the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) World Trade Center Health Program, the New York Daily News reported Thursday, citing documents.
According to the report, the Treasury Department began partially withholding payments made and authorized by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
According to the program's director, FDNY chief medical officer Dr. David Prezant, the department withheld half a million dollars annually in 2016 and 2017, with the sum rising to $630,000 in 2018 and 2019.
Some $1.447 million were withheld by the Treasury Department through late August, the News reported, citing Prezant. "This is the most amazing thing. This was disappearing – without any notification," he told the media outlet.
"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," he continued.
"And for years, they wouldn't even tell us – we never ever received a letter telling us this."
According to the newspaper, Prezant was told the reason for the withheld payments was a feud between a city agency and the federal government over Medicare bills after Long Island Republican Rep. Pete King supported an inquiry into the issue.
"I don't even care what the details of this thing are. That fund has to be fully compensated, fully reimbursed. I mean, this is absurd," King told the media outlet.
"If anyone were true American heroes, it was the cops and firemen on 9/11, especially the firemen, and for even $1 to be being held back is absolutely indefensible."
King told the News he intended to confront Vice President Mike Pence during the Tunnel to Towers event on Friday. It has not been reported whether the two discussed the issue.
"The Trump Treasury Department siphoning funds meant to pay for 9/11 workers' healthcare is outrageous," New York Sen. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter.
"These first responders risked their lives for us on 9/11. The 9/11 workers’ health program must be made whole. NOW."
The Trump Treasury Department siphoning funds meant to pay for 9/11 workers’ healthcare is outrageous.These first responders risked their lives for us on 9/11.The 9/11 workers’ health program must be made whole. NOW. https://t.co/csPV7PFWwN— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) September 10, 2020
The White House and the US Treasury Department have yet to comment on the matter.