Treasury Department withholds $1.5 million from FDNY 9/11 health program

The Treasury Department has so far withheld in 2020 approximately $1.5 million from a New York City Fire Department health care program for those who worked at Ground Zero following the September 11 terrorist attacks, according to letters from New York Rep. Peter King. By Alex Rogers, Betsy Klein and Lauren del Valle, CNN

(CNN) -- The Treasury Department has so far withheld in 2020 approximately $1.5 million from a New York City Fire Department health care program for those who worked at Ground Zero following the September 11 terrorist attacks, according to letters from New York Rep. Peter King.

The Republican congressman wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in June and on September 10, urging him to reimburse the FDNY's World Trade Center Health Program for its services. He wrote that the department apparently withheld the funding due to "a range of issues dealing with different New York City offices and programs that have nothing to do with the FDNY Clinic."

"It is essential that you release these funds immediately to the FDNY's World Trade Center Clinic," King wrote to Mnuchin in September. "Our firefighters should not (be) punished for an administrative issue with New York City's Department of Finance."

The New York Daily News first reported that the Treasury Department withheld nearly $4 million over the past four years, including nearly $1.5 million this year through late August. FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer told CNN that the Daily News article is "accurate."

But Frederick Vaughan, a Treasury Department official, told King's office in August that between August 2016 and May 2020, the department withheld nearly $2 million from FDNY. Vaughan wrote that the Treasury Department is required to "offset" federal payments for debts owed to the US, and since New York City has a single taxpayer identification number that covers multiple programs, FDNY's World Trade Center Health Program offset the debt of another.

King wrote that the department withheld the payments without informing FDNY, which he said noticed the discrepancies in their reimbursements over a year ago, and urged the department again in September to address the issue.

The Treasury Department is currently working with New York City to do so, according to a Trump administration official.

"Treasury adhered to its statutory obligations established by Congress regarding debts owed by New York," the official said. "But we are also working with Congressman King and others to examine any potential authorities to provide relief in this case to support our nation's 9/11 heroes."

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