By Julie Shapiro
MANHATTAN — The federal government agreed to fund health clinics for 9/11 first responders Thursday morning, one day after New York politicians wrote a letter demanding action.
In the letter, US Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler criticized the Obama Administration for not renewing the contract for six first responder clinics in the greater New York area. Thousands of responders could have lost their medical care if the federal government had allowed the contract to expire June 30, Nadler and Maloney said.
But on Thursday morning, the federal Office of Management and Budget agreed to continue funding the clinics and extended the contract, said OMB spokesman Kenneth Baer.
Asked why it had taken so many months to get the extension, Baer said the budget “is a process which takes time.”
As of late Thursday afternoon, though, OMB had not told Rep. Maloney's office about the contract extension.
“If OMB has approved the contracts and funding for the World Trade Center Health Programs, it would be great news," Maloney said in a statement to DNAinfo, "but it would also be news to the clinics, the City of New York, and to us in Congress.”
In addition to extending the health clinics contract, OMB also extended another contract Thursday, for the World Trade Center Health Registry, which monitors the long-term impacts of the attacks, Baer said.
But OMB has not agreed to Maloney and Nadler's final request: a $3.5 million grant to the city’s 9/11 Mental Health and Substance Use Benefit Program, which reimburses both first responders and residents for costs involved in mental health and substance abuse treatment, Baer said.
In the letter on Wednesday, Maloney and Nadler had demanded all three programs get funding.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said John Feal, a 9/11 responder who lost half of his left foot at ground zero. “But two out of three doesn’t save lives. Three out of three saves lives.”
Feal also criticized the Obama Administration for waiting until the last minute to release funding.
“You’re playing with the emotions of men and women who are sick and dying,” Feal said.