NEW YORK, NY — The city firefighters union is blasting a detail tucked into the President Trump’s budget that would reorganize how the federal government handles health treatment for 9/11 first responders.
As first reported by the Daily News Sunday, the White House fiscal year 2019 budget plan would upend health services for more than 83,000 first responders who rely on the World Trade Center Health Program, lawmakers and 9/11 advocates say.
On Wednesday, the Uniformed Firefighters Association added its voice to the chorus of those asking Trump to reconsider.
“These changes would be devastating to our firefighters. So many of our brave brothers and sisters fought through the 9/11 disaster and are still fighting through their health illnesses today as a result of the injuries endured during the World Trade Center attack,” said Gerald Fitzgerald, UFA president. “They can’t afford to be put at further risk by not having access to the doctors and treatments they have been receiving.”
Currently, the World Trade Center Health Program is housed within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which operates under the umbrella of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The budget carves NIOSH out of the CDC and places it within the National Institutes of Health, but leaves the WTC Health Program within the CDC.
But NIOSH and the WTC Health Program share many employees — and those workers would move with NIOSH, critics of the plan say.
The director of NIOSH, Dr. John Howard, would also move with the agency — meaning he could no longer fulfill his current dual role as administrator of the WTC Health Program.
That could leave a leadership vacuum, and the shift of resources and personnel would hit as several key contracts go up for renewal.
Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler, (D-Manhattan) and Pete King (R-L.I.) have called for the planned changes to be scrapped.