Comedian Jon Stewart questioned the amount of time it's taken Congress to pass legislation extending the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
June 11 (UPI) -- Comedian and actor Jon Stewart joined a group of Sept. 11 first responders on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to push lawmakers to vote in favor of legislation replenishing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
He spoke before the House Committee on the Judiciary's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, one day before the House was scheduled to vote on the Never Forget the Heroes Act. If passed, the act would refill the coffers of the fund and permanently extend it.
Stewart complained about how long it has taken for Congress to pass the legislation, which lawmakers introduced in February after it became clear the VCF was running out of money. One week earlier, the fund's special master, Rupa Bhattacharyya, said he'd have to reduce payments by at least 50 percent after a record number of claims.
"I'm sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic. But I'm angry, and you should be, too. And they're all angry as well," Stewart said of the first responders. "And they have every justification to be that way.
"They responded in 5 seconds. They did their jobs.
"Eighteen years later, do yours!"
The congressionally created fund is limited to families of those killed and the injured at the sites of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The fund first operated from 2001 to 2004 and was then reactivated in 2011. To date, some 40,000 people have applied to the fund, with 20,000 claims pending.
In February, Bhattacharyya said the fund has dispersed some $5 billion of the $7.37 billion in its coffers.
Retired New York Police Department Detective Luis Alvarez also testified Tuesday, telling lawmakers he's due to begin his 69th round of chemotherapy. Doctors diagnosed him with cancer after he responded to the attack at the World Trade Center.
"This fund isn't a ticket to paradise, it's to provide our families with care," he said. "You all said you would never forget. Well, I'm here to make sure that you don't."