April 17, 2008 / 5:27 PM / 10 years ago

NYC mayor: Govt should cover 9/11 health costs

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday called on the U.S. government to pay $150 million a year to cover medical bills for workers and residents whose health suffered due to the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The federal government created a $1 billion insurance fund to help ground zero workers sickened by the toxic fumes and dust released when the World Trade Center was destroyed.

The fund, however, has been hobbled by lawsuits and criticized for a lack of payments to sick workers.

The request for the health payments was among the top priorities for the mayor, who provided an update on Thursday for his second and last term that ends in 2010.

As home to numerous billionaires, the city regularly plays host to political fund raisers and Bloomberg said he wants donors to ask the country’s politicians to support his priorities.

“We need state and federal legislators who come to New York City for money to understand the city’s priorities -- and to vote accordingly,” Bloomberg, an independent, said in a statement.

Bloomberg has lost some key battles with the state recently, including a plan to relieve traffic congestion and improve air quality by charging commuters $8 to drive into large parts of Manhattan during peak hours on weekdays.

Bloomberg, at a luncheon where he was joined by California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, listed the priorities that he wants donors to help him seek support.

In addition to funds for medical bills related to the 9/11 attacks, Bloomberg’s top priorities include getting more money for infrastructure, ranging from transportation to the water and sewer system.

A mayoral aide said that goal could be advanced if a federal infrastructure bank were created, an idea also supported by Schwarzenegger and Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

“America needs $1.6 trillion worth of infrastructure over the next five years, yet federal investment has been cut in half as a percent of gross domestic product since 1987,” said Schwarzenegger, in a statement with the two other officials.

The three politicians aim to build a coalition of state and local officials that will become a source of expertise on funding infrastructure. The Rockefeller Foundation, over the short-term, will fund the project.

“The coalition will work with the presidential candidates and the platform committees of the national political parties to ensure that the next president understands the enormity of the infrastructure crisis and is committed to increasing federal funding for infrastructure,” the statement said.

Bloomberg repeated some previous goals, including getting more money to improve security . He also wants to slice the city’s carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030 and sharply boost affordable housing by 2013.

Reporting by Edith Honan and Joan Gralla; Editing by Leslie Adler

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