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NYC fire officials ask to keep 9/11 funds

$125m is needed for health issues, they tell Congress

WASHINGTON -- New York City fire officials came to Congress yesterday to urge legislators not to take back $125 million in aid money that the lawmakers had granted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center.

The fire officials said the funds are still desperately needed to help treat thousands of participants in rescue and recovery operations at the World Trade Center who later became ill.

The city's fire commissioner, Nicholas Scoppetta, and police and fire officials visited the offices of House lawmakers hoping to persuade them not to rescind the aid that had been meant to cover workers' compensation claims.

City officials and New York legislators argued that the money should stay in New York.

They also said that the funds should be spent on long-term health problems suffered by people who worked at ground zero.

''The FDNY suffered a terrible wound, that wound is still open, it has not healed, and it's going to take a long time," said Chief Peter Hayden, who led the response to the crash into the north tower.

After the 2001 attacks, President Bush pledged $20 billion to help rebuild New York. The administration's 2006 budget recommended taking back $125 million, because the state had not spent it.

New York officials argue that slow-developing illnesses, primarily lung ailments and mental health issues, will lead to many millions of dollars of claims in future years.

''We know people suffer -- I see them all the time," said Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York Democrat. ''They deserve this help, they've earned this help, and the money is for them."

More than 13,000 firefighters have received some form of treatment since the attacks, Scoppetta said.

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