The United States House of Representatives re-authorized funding for the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund on Friday. The fund, established to assist first responders and others who risked their lives in the immediate aftermath and suffered illnesses caused by pollution in the months-long clean up effort, was set to expire in 2020.
As reported by The Hill, "The bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) would authorize additional funds through 2090. It was passed 402-12."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement, expressing support and willingness to pass the Senate's version of the bill rather quickly.
"The first responders who rushed into danger on September 11th, 2001 are the very definition of American heroes and patriots. The Senate has never forgotten the Victim Compensation Fund and we aren’t about to start now. Nothing about our shared goal to provide for these heroes is remotely partisan. We will consider this important legislation soon," McConnell said.
The passage of the bill comes weeks after comedian and advocate Jon Stewart attended a hearing on behalf of 9/11 victims to discuss the bill. He slammed Congress for mostly failing to appear at the committee hearing.
"I want to thank Mr. Collins and Mr. Nadler for putting this together, but as I sit here today I can't help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process of getting healthcare and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to. Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders, and in front of me a nearly empty congress," Stewart said.
"Sick and dying, they came down here to and speak. And no one? Shameful. It's an embarrassment to the country, and it is a stain on this institution," he continued. "You should be ashamed of yourselves for those who aren't here, but you won't be because of accountability doesn't appear to be something that occurs in this chamber."
One of those first responders who came and testified was retired New York Detective, bomb squad, and military veterans Luis Alvarez.
"Less than 24 hours from now, I will be starting my 69th round of chemotherapy. Yeah, you heard that correct. I should not be here with you. But you made me come. You made me come because I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11 like me are valued less than anybody else, because when they get sick, they died," Alvarez said.
"I have been lucky enough to have had 68 rounds of chemo...many others haven't had the opportunity, and some have had none. Their families would love to have time with them....It is my goal and my legacy to see that you do the right thing...for [all] 9/11 responders," he added.
Alvarez passed away on June 29 following his testimony. This version of the 9/11 compensation fund will specifically honor Alvarez and two other deceased first responders.