Last week, Jon Stewart gave a heartfelt speech to a near empty congress as he advocated for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). The comedian and activist painted a tragic yet realistic picture of the current state of our country and Federal Government.
The VCF was founded in 2010 and provides compensation to first responders that were physically injured during the job or who are struggling with an illness that arose from being there. The fund also provides financial assistance to families who lost loved ones during this terrible act of terrorism. Nearly 3,000 innocent American citizens were killed that day, while over 6,000 sustained injuries. As of May 31, 2019 the VCF has seen over 50,000 eligible claims and 47,000 of those have qualified for compensation.
The Federal Government argues that the VCF is running out of money and because of this they are planning to reduce the benefits by 70% starting February 1, 2019. Stewart passionately informed the committee that it only took 5 seconds for first responders to respond to the tragedy. These people did not run away from the terror, they ran into it to help, because that was their job. Stewart ended his speech stating, “They responded, in 5 seconds, they did their jobs. 18 years later, do yours.”
The very day next after Stewart’s testimony, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the bill, permanently reauthorizing the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised on Tuesday to responders that the measure would pass the house and even advance before Independence Day break.
First Responders have been through this process three times before, as the VCF is reviewed every five years, but they are running out of time as more and more responders fall ill. After 9/11, our country did not turn against one another. America came together as a united force and the hashtag #Never Forget became viral. Yet, the Federal Government seems to be forgetting. Stewart in this moment, acted as a bold, remarkable reminder that first responders and volunteers are sick and dying and nobody is working to help them.