A proposal in President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget to reorganize the World Trade Center Health Program could jeopardize the health and safety of thousands of 9/11 first responders, three local members of Congress said.
Trump’s budget would move the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health — where the program is housed — from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the National Institutes of Health.
The program, which provides monitoring and treatment to 83,000 first responders and survivors who became ill after working at Ground Zero, would remain as a free-standing entity in the CDC.
Reps. Peter King (R-Seaford), Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) and Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) wrote Sunday to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney urging him to “withdraw this ill-advised proposal.”
The lawmakers were the original sponsors of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act, which created the responder health program.
They said the bureaucratic reshuffling could deprive program participants of key occupational health experts who are familiar with their medical conditions.
Some NIOSH employees who work on the WTC Health Program, including director John Howard, a physician appointed by President George W. Bush, would move to NIH.
“This will unnecessarily put at risk the health of those who have been made ill by 9/11, many of whom are still suffering, and in too many cases still dying, from their injuries 17 years later,” the letter states.
The OMB and the CDC did not respond to requests for comment.
In an interview, King said he is suspicious of Mulvaney’s motives. As a member of Congress, Mulvaney opposed the 2015 legislation reauthorizing Zadroga for 75 years.
That law, King said, calls for the World Trade Center Health Program to be placed in the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, where there are dedicated experts to serve 9/11 victims.
“This program is working as perfectly as a program can be,” King said. “This serves no purpose.”