Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Another low blow from Bush

For Immediate Release                                    Contact: Anthony Coley (Corzine) 202-224-6037

Wednesday, November 2, 2005                                Alex Formuzis (Lautenberg) 202-224-7340

 

Corzine, Lautenberg Blast Administration Decision to Terminate Funding for 9/11 Victims

Call on White House to Restore Funding for Counseling Services

 

 

Washington, D.C. – Following a Bush Administration decision to withdraw funding allocated to the state of New Jersey to provide counseling services for 9/11 victims and their families, U.S. Senators Jon S. Corzine (D-NJ) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), joined by a bipartisan group of New Jersey members of Congress, today called on the administration to restore those funds, which have helped tens of thousands of New Jerseyans in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

 

The State of New Jersey lost almost 700 citizens in the September 11 terrorist attacks. In April of 2002, the Justice Department used funds appropriated by Congress to issue a grant to New Jersey for aid and support to first responders, victims, and their families. The state of New Jersey used that grant, worth $8.5 million, for several counseling initiatives, including 24-hour hotlines for first responders and other victims, free mental health services, community education, and group intervention services. More than 54,000 individuals were reached through community outreach programs, and more than 3,000 received individual or group counseling.

  

The statute appropriating the funds for victims states that the money would remain available until expended; New Jersey had yet to spend over $1.4 million from the grant when the funding was withdrawn.

 

In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the senators, joined by U.S. Representatives Robert Menendez (D-13th Dist.), Scott Garrett (R-5th Dist.), Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th Dist.), Donald Payne (D-10th Dist.), Steve Rothman (D-9th Dist.), Bill Pascrell (D-8th Dist.) and Robert Andrews (D-1st Dist.), asked that the Victims Assistance Counseling Grant provided through the Justice Department be restored in light of the success of the program and its continued importance to victims and their families. The text of the letter is reprinted below:

 

Dear Attorney General Gonzales:

 

            We are extremely distressed that the Office for Victims of Crime (“OVC”) issued a decision on October 31, 2005, rejecting an appeal of its decision to terminate funding to New Jersey under the FY02 Victim Assistance Counseling Grant for Victims of 9/11 Attacks on America program. 

 

            As we explained in our first letter to you, the funding provided by OVC has allowed the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office to create a program that provides a 24-hour hotline for first responders and other victims of the attacks, mental health counseling within a statewide network of mental health professionals, community education, and therapeutic group intervention.  This is a hugely successful program that has provided needed and urgent care to thousands of victims of the September 11 attacks, including the family members of those killed in the attacks and the first responders who gave so selflessly of their time and energy and now need our help.

 

            To date, the State of New Jersey has used some, but not all, of the federal funds allocated pursuant to the grant.   There remains a strong and continuing need for assistance; almost four thousand first responders have sought assistance from the program in the last several months.  Further, the statute and conference report appropriating the funds state that the money shall “remain available until expended,” and OVC referenced this language in its conversations with New Jersey.  New Jersey made  commitments and promises to its citizens based on this language, and it is unfair and harmful to the victims of September 11 to terminate the program now. 

           

            We therefore once again urgently request that you immediately reverse the decision to terminate funding.  We believe that the Department of Justice must honor its commitment to the victims of September 11 by permitting the remainder of the allocated funds to be provided to the State of New Jersey.

 

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M. Allyn Brooks-LaSure Jon S. Corzine for Governor Phone: 973-495-8868

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