WASHINGTON – The Senate moved Thursday to restore $125 million of Sept. 11 aid to help injured workers — money New York lawmakers had fought furiously to save from a federal budget-cutting ax.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (search) announced the deal on the Senate floor, offering an amendment with Sen. Charles Schumer (search) to restore the $125 million in unspent workers compensation money.
"This is a righting of an inadvertent wrong," said Clinton, D-N.Y. "We have a number of our colleagues who understand completely the need for these funds to be reinstated."
White House budget officials and House leaders had sought to take back the unspent money under a budget proposed earlier this year, arguing that New York had not spent it in years and apparently had no plans to spend it.
That prompted immediate complaints from New York officials that thousands of ground zero workers are still suffering lingering physical and mental health problems from their time working on the toxic debris pile, and more health problems may develop over time.
The unspent $125 million was part of a $20 billion aid package Congress gave to New York following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Schumer said the restoration of the money erased "the only mark where there has been a waiver in the commitment made to New York."
The restoration of the workers' funding must still clear one final step: negotiations between budget leaders in the Senate and the House, who will forge a compromise bill between versions of the larger spending bill.
But proponents consider its chances to be good. Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y., crafted a compromise in June that left open the possibility for the Senate to restore the money.
Congress originally gave $175 million to New York state for the expected costs of settling workers compensation claims for those killed or injured at ground zero.
Of that sum, $125 million was earmarked to help pay administrative costs of handling claims from construction and recovery workers.
New York lawmakers argued many ground zero workers may not develop symptoms for years, and the state will eventually need that money.