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Bush Budget Proposes Adding 9/11 Health Funds January 30, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Politics, US News, White House.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush plans to keep funding health programs for sick ground zero workers, enough to keep the effort alive at least through 2007, the White House said Tuesday.

The administration next week will propose spending at least $25 million more to fund a Sept. 11, 2001-related health care program in Manhattan and a related effort for New York firefighters.

White House officials said they would consider spending more money, depending on the findings of a separate government task force examining Sept. 11-related health issues.

“We consider this a good starting point,” said White House budget spokesman Sean Kevelighan.
New York Representative Vito Fossella, a Republican, called the news “a breakthrough,” after years of seeking more help from the government.

“For the first time in the federal budget there will be a down payment to provide for funding for continued treatment and monitoring for 9/11 responders who need our help,” he said.

Word of the new money comes a day before Bush is due to speak in New York City about the economy, and sick Sept. 11 workers plan a rally timed to the visit. It is also a week before Bush offers his budget proposal to the U.S. Congress.

New York lawmakers have spent years lobbying for funding to support ground zero workers suffering from health problems. New York Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Manhattan Democrat, called the move “long overdue,” adding that the health programs should treat “all those exposed and affected.”

The issue gained new attention last week when a former New York City police officer died of lung problems, more than five years after he worked at ground zero.

Cesar Borja, 52, died awaiting a lung transplant. His son, Ceasar Borja, Jr., 21, was tentatively scheduled to meet with the president in New York Wednesday to discuss Sept. 11 health issues, but no specific time was given.

The college student attended Bush’s annual State of the Union address to Congress last week – hours after his father’s death – to call attention to the issue.

The government delivered $75 million for Sept. 11 health programs last year, but health advocates had warned that money was due to run out by the summer.

Under the new White House proposal, those programs would remain funded through the end of the year – and their inclusion in the president’s budget suggests it may be easier to continue funding through future years.

The Borja case is one of several deaths that have generated increasing public pressure for the government to do more for those who are still sick years after working on the toxic debris pile at the World Trade Center site.

Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has called for a $1.9 billion federal effort to provide years of treatment to those sick workers.

Mount Sinai Medical Center, which has screened about 19,000 such workers, released a report last year finding nearly seven out of every 10 ground zero responders suffered lung problems.

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