By Erin Billups NY1
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are calling it the “Fiscal Cliff” – the end of the year when, in part, $110 billion in automatic deficit cuts are set to take place. It’s a broad axe that will slice most areas of government, including money meant for the victims and first responders of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Just weeks after the nation memorialized the September 11 terror attacks and a federal agency announced more than 50 types of cancer would be covered by a landmark September 11 health care bill, lawmakers are now worried there will be fewer funds to go around.
“It would be a cruel hoax to be starting people on a certain treatment and not be able to continue it,” said Rep. Peter King.
With no plan in place to avert the automatic deficit cuts, the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund is facing a blunt cut of $24 million in January and more than $300 million over the next five years.
That’s even less money available for those suffering with health problems as a result of the terrorist attacks, who are covered under a bill known as the Zadroga Act.
“Certainly, those that are sick and dying because of 9/11 should have the health care that they need,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
Rep. Maloney is lead sponsor of the Zadroga Act along with Rep. King. They are working with other members of the New York delegation to ensure the 9/11 programs are taken off the table as lawmakers begin to work on an alternative to the automatic cuts.
“There is an agreement that something has to be done,” King said. “Unfortunately, once you get out of the New York region, there’s not that much concern about the 9/11 healthcare fund.”
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the fund isn’t actually adding to the nation’s deficit. It’s bankrolled by an international business tax.
“As I understand it, this is a total distortion of what was intended to happen,” King said.
“I’m hopeful that a decision will be made that allows us to make sane decisions based on the merits and not on an across-the-board 7.6 percent cut,” Maloney said.
While Capitol Hill is currently quiet as lawmakers hit the campaign trail, Congressional leaders have said discussions are underway to find an alternative.