Jon Stewart lashes out at Congress over September 11 victims fund

Jon Stewart lashes out at Congress over September 11 victims fund

First responders from 9/11 and their advocates, including comedian Jon Stewart, made an emotional appeal to Congress on Tuesday to make a victim compensation fund permanent.

"Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders, and in front of me, a almost empty Congress", Stewart said.

Stewart called this an "embarrassment to the country" and a "stain on this institution", telling those who didn't attend that they should be "ashamed" of themselves.

Stewart also hit at criticism that the victims fund is exclusively a NY issue since so numerous people who worked at Ground Zero - firefighters and other first responders - were New Yorkers. Just over half of the 14 members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee were in attendance. "Never forget what they did, what they gave to this country.' Well here they are", Stewart said. Congress is soon expected to vote on the "Never Forget the Heroes Act", which would extend medical funding for survivors beyond 2020, when it was set to end. "Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders".

This February, officials who manage the $7.4 billion fund announced that it is running out of money, and will begin to slash future payouts by between 50% and 70%.

"I'm sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic".

In recent years, more and more 9/11 first responders have been diagnosed with illnesses that have been linked to their participation in rescue and recovery efforts following the September 11 attacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The fund was created to provide health care and financial assistance to first responders, volunteers and survivors who are now experiencing subsequent health problems, including cancer and respiratory disease, following the 2001 attacks. "Where are they?" asked Stewart.

Stewart also voiced anger over the need to repeatedly reauthorize funding for the September 11 first responders.

"Five seconds. That's how long it took - for FDNY, for NYPD, for Port Authority, for EMS - to respond to an urgent need from the public", Stewart said, referring to the quick response time of emergency workers on 9/11.

Pointing to rows of uniformed firefighters and police officers behind him, he said the hearing "should be flipped", so that first responders were on the dais, with members of Congress "down here" in witness chairs answering their questions. "They did their jobs", he said.

Rose's office said he was present for the hearing and during Stewart's testimony.

Earlier this year, VCF Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya said a record number of claims submitted in 2018 and in recent months left insufficient funding in the VCF to pay all current and future claims.

The Louisiana Republican then predicted the bill would sail through the committee and pass nearly-unanimously through the House. Frail and struggling at times to speak, Alvarez said he came to Capitol Hill on behalf of those who will get ill later and may get little or no aid from the fund.

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