New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is imploring Congress to protect the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) from a budget proposal that he said could impact survivors of the 9/11 terror attacks.
More than 83,000 people rely on WTCHP for critical health care and monitoring services for 9/11-related illnesses or injuries, according to Schneiderman, including 16,000 FDNY members.
The budget proposal by President Donald Trump would see that WTCHP is separated from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), though it has been housed with the institute since its inception.
The program’s staff often relies on expertise from NIOSH, which has been involved with treatment services, funding monitoring and research on 9/11-related illnesses since 2002, per Schneiderman.
“Separating the WTCHP from NIOSH would be unnecessarily disruptive and potentially dangerous for the victims of the greatest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor,” Schneiderman wrote in a letter to Congress, dated April 9. “I urge you to do all that you can to block this unwise and potentially dangerous proposal in the president’s budget.”
The attorney general said the federal government has a “solemn obligation” to provide quality health care to survivors of the attacks as well as the first responders.
“Congress must act to ensure 9/11 survivors and first responders continue to receive the care that they need and deserve,” Schneiderman wrote.
The letter was sent to Sens. Lamar Alexander, Patty Murray, Richard Shelby and Patrick J. Leahy as well as Reps. Greg Walden, Frank Pallone, Rodney P. Frelinghuysen and Nita Lowey, who represents parts of the Hudson Valley in New York.
A spokesman said Lowey was “deeply concerned” by the budget proposal, and believes it would “create fear and uncertainty for those who have already made tremendous sacrifices for our country.”
“Congresswoman Lowey was among a bipartisan group of House members who in March sent a letter urging OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to withdraw his proposal to separate the WTCHP from the NIOSH,” spokesman Mike Burns said. “She also raised this issue with Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at an HHS budget hearing last month.”