'Here to Say: Fix It.' - FDNY Union Head Says of Nearly $4 Million in 9/11 Funds Diverted by Trump Administration

NY Daily News - October 16, 2020

by Kerry Burke and John Annese

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The head of the city firefighters union on Wednesday joined the chorus of voices demanding the Trump Administration restore nearly $4 million siphoned from the NYFD’s 9/11 treatment program.

Andrew Ansbro, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, didn’t directly criticize President Trump for the move, but instead blasted “the tone deaf and recklessness at the Treasury (Department)."

“I’m not here to point fingers,” he said at a press conference outside the union’s headquarters. "I’m here to say fix it.”

The money, which is supposed to go toward the treatment of ailing firefighters and EMTs sickened at Ground Zero, was taken in bits and pieces by the Treasury Department since 2016 to pay down a still-unexplained Medicare debt supposedly owed by the city that has nothing to do with the Fire Department, officials argued.

New York lawmakers have pointed out that federal law gives Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin the authority to waive such debt collections, and Treasury officials have pledged to find a way to stop them.

Though Trump official Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, called the siphoning of funds “unacceptable” following Daily News stories about the practice since Sept. 10, the money still hadn’t been returned as of earlier this month.

“The missing funding is directly hindering the program’s ability to hire doctors as the number of FDNY members treated by the program increases,” Ansbro said. “More staffing is needed now.”

Some 21 jobs dealing with medical care and support for ill paramedics and firefighters remain unfilled while the program goes without the $3.7 million drained from it since 2016, according to the FDNY’s World Trade Center treatment program’s accounting.

“This is simply unacceptable,” Ansbro said. “The siphoning of funds is morally and medically wrong.”