On Monday, a comedian went to Capitol Hill to work with lawmakers for a noble reason. Jon Stewart supported the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund by endorsing the Never Forget the Heroes Act, which aims to secure permanent funding for it. This isn't the first time Stewart has spoken out in support of 9/11 victims and first responders — but this time, he's certainly not mincing words.
Stewart's visit comes a week after the Justice Department announced that the VCF would be making significant cuts on upcoming compensation awards. Now, Stewart and a number of lawmakers are seeking to secure permanent funding for those 9/11 survivors who qualify for compensation.
In an op-ed for The New York Daily News on Monday, Stewart wrote in part,
I am walking the halls of Congress with injured and ill 9/11 responders and survivors, looking to see if “Remembering 9/11” is more than a cheap obligatory slogan senators and representatives tweet out. The fact that we continue to need to do this is beyond my comprehension.
First responders, firefighters, police, construction workers, Red Cross volunteers, transit workers, FBI agents and school teachers are going door to door, down marble-lined hallways, because 17 years after the attacks on 9/11, injured and ill responders, survivors and their families are still dealing with the impact of the toxins at Ground Zero. They are in every state and 434 out of 435 Congressional Districts.
Stewart's message sheds light on an aspect of 9/11 injuries that many people might not be fully aware of: the vast number of people who sustained illnesses and cancers due to the toxins at the ground zero site, which is a totally separate issue than those who sustained physical injuries on the day of.
The numbers of those coming forward with illnesses and cancers related to the toxins at Ground Zero grows every single day. In the World Trade Center Health Program, 45,000 people are suffering from at least one 9/11-related chronic health condition. More than 10,000 have been certified with a 9/11-related cancer, with more being diagnosed every day, and almost every other day another 9/11 responder or survivor dies from a 9/11-associated cancer.
It's not just Stewart who is working tirelessly to bring this message to the forefront of the national conversation: he has been joined by a number of lawmakers, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Chuck Schumer, and Cory Gardner, as well as Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler, and Pete King.
In a tweet on Monday, Maloney wrote, "We need to make sure the Victim Compensation Fund is there for all the sick & injured & the families of those killed bc of the toxins at Ground Zero. And that starts with today’s introduction of the Never Forget the Heroes Act. We must
Speaking before Congress on Monday, Stewart confirmed that he had no intentions of ever stopping in his effort to secure funding for the VCF. He said, as seen in the video above, "It's Congress's job to fund [the VCF] properly and let these people live in peace. Thank you."