The members of Congress insist the loss of the funds would jeopardize $120 million in workers' compensation aid for hundreds of 9/11 responders who are already receiving workers' compensation for 9/11 injuries or who have applied to receive the aid. It would also jeopardize $5 million of unspent funds from the worker retraining program established to help New Yorkers who became unemployed because of 9/11.
"With thousands of 9/11 responders still injured, it's wrong to pull back promised federal aid that could be used for their medical treatment and other needs," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). "I cannot accept the idea that these funds are not needed when so many of the 9/11 responders who have contacted me say their biggest frustration has been with their workers' compensation claims. We need to use these funds to assist those that were injured as a result of the terrorist attacks."
The letter to the president from members of the New York delegation asks him to reconsider this proposal and potentially redirect these funds to supplement existing programs that help sick and injured 9/11 responders. That letter can be viewed at www.house.gov/maloney/issues/Sept11/20050531_rescission_ltr_POTUS.pdf. .
"We don't know yet what the need is, nor does OMB. What we do know is that there was a witches' brew of toxic substances emanating from that debris and those firefighters, police officers and construction workers were breathing that for days," said Rep. James Walsh (R-NY).
In addition, members of the delegation sent a letter to Representatives Jerry Lewis and David Obey, the chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee respectively, asking the committee to reject the rescission and for a review of the unmet health needs of 9/11 responders.
"We can't turn our backs on those who responded to the call of duty on and after September 11th," said Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-NY). "So many of them continue to suffer emotionally, medically and financially from the attacks and their aftermath, and we must continue to stand by them today. It is the least we can do for the heroes of 9/11."
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) said it would be "an absolute outrage" if the Bush Administration took back the $125 million in federal aid. "Even though it's been several years since the attacks, we still don't know exactly all of the health ramifications associated with that tragedy and we must have the resources to deal with them as we move forward," he added.
Joining Maloney, Walsh, Serrano and Hinchey, in signing the letters were Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D), Randy Kuhl (R), Charles Rangel (D), Michael McNulty (D), Anthony Weiner (D), Carolyn McCarthy (D), Sherwood Boehlert (R), Edolphus Towns (D), Timothy Bishop (D), Joseph Crowley (D), Eliot Engel (D), and Gary Ackerman (D), Brian Higgins (D), Gregory Meeks (D), Sue Kelly (R), and Major Owens (D). Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) also signed onto the letter to the president and sent a separate letter to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on the matter. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) also signed onto the letter to the president.
Members of the New York delegation detailed several specific requests in the letter to the President, including:
1) Determine full need of workers' compensation funds before considering a rescission - There has never been an actuarial review of the future need for the workers compensation funds provided to New York following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. This needs to be done before a rescission of these funds can be considered.
2) Review of remaining health needs of 9/11 responders - The letter claims federal response to 9/11 health needs has been inadequate so far, having provided "valuable help but insufficient funds" for the full course of medical screening and monitoring of 9/11 responders. At the conclusion of the first round of federally funded medical screenings, several thousand responders eligible for the examinations were left in need. Moreover, approximately 50 percent of medically screened responders (6,000) are already estimated to warrant physical and/or mental health treatment, and/or further diagnostic testing. Despite finding thousands still sick as a direct result of 9/11, no federal funding has been provided for treatment. The only funding for treatment has come from private, charitable sources. A Bush administration review of the unmet needs of 9/11 responders is needed to determine and recommend future actions of the federal government to help.
3) Redirect the $125 million to help 9/11 sick and injured - Rather than pulling back needed 9/11 recovery aid, the group urges the president and Congress to work together to determine how the $125 million, if not needed for workers' compensation, could be used to help those still suffering health effects from 9/11. Any technical obstacles to using these funds to help inured 9/11 responders requires a review of what the needs are that are not being met before the money is taken away, says the letter. According to the letter, "Some of the individuals we are concerned about are those responders whose illnesses are emerging late or lasting longer than expected and the 6,000 who are waiting to be included in the health monitoring program that was established for 9/11 responders. These funds could certainly be redirected to provide monitoring and treatment to these individuals."
The letter also expressed appreciation to the president for his support of New York City since the attacks and for his pledge "to do whatever it takes" to rebuild and recover from 9/11.