2008-02-06 / Features

NY Lawmakers Shocked At Bush's 77% Cut In 9/11 Health Funding

BY JOHN TOSCANO

New York lawmakers in Washington who have been persistently pressing the White House for increased funding for healthcare programs for ailing 9/11 World Trade Center workers were jolted last week when President George W. Bush's proposed budget slashed those programs by 77 percent.

Only last Wednesday, they pointed out, a White House spokesman had issued a statement that the president's 2009 budget would "reflect his continued commitment" to WTC workers. In reality, the budget issued appropriated a paltry $25 million, down from $108 million in the present spending plan.

"This dramatic and unwarranted cut flies in the face of common sense, compassion and just plain fairness," Senator Charles Schumer declared as he promised to "fight these cuts tooth and nail to ensure these heroes receive the health care they need and clearly deserve".

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton stated she was "disappointed and saddened to see that the president chose not to acknowledge the clear healthcare needs of these heroes", and Congressmember Carolyn Maloney said it was "shocking that the president would use his final budget to take an axe to the 9/11 healthcare programs".

Maloney (D- Queens/Manhattan) noted: "Just a few weeks ago, the administration canceled a program for 9/11 responders from around the country because they said it lacked funding, and now they release a budget that doesn't even ask for the money they said they needed.

"The administration has failed in every single one of its budget proposals to deliver adequate help to the heroes of 9/11. Sadly, it looks like this is yet another problem the president will be leaving to his successor."

Maloney pointed out that the Fiscal Year 2008 budget had for the first time included $25 million for 9/11 health programs, even though the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimated these programs would need more than $200 million.

The administration at that time promised more funds would be provided, but nothing more was added.

Ultimately, under pressure from the New York congressional delegation, the administration relented and provided $108 million for sick responders, residents, and students, plus another $50 million for 9/11 health needs in an emergency spending bill.

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