On Tuesday, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that extends the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for decades

By Claudia Harmata
July 24, 2019 02:52 PM
Jon Stewart (second from right) with 9/11 first responders and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (left)
Mark Wilson/Getty

On Tuesday, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that extends funds for 9/11 victims, responders and their families almost into the next century.

The measure was approved in 97 to 2 vote, which was met with a loud applause, CBS News reported. Earlier this month, the House also passed the bill with a majority of 402 to 12. The bill now awaits President Donald Trump‘s signature to become law.

The bill, which had made national headlines in recent weeks after a series of 9/11 responders spoke out about its importance, will let victims and their families file claims with the fund through 2090, with repayment scheduled through 2092.

Officials had said the fund was running out of money more quickly than expected given escalating claims and without new money, it would have to sharply curtail the money it could provide.

The fund was developed by the government as its remedy for victims and responders who were killed or suffered health problems as a result of the terror attacks.

Thousands have developed health issues associated with exposure to debris and toxins from the World Trade Center site.

RELATED: He Was a 25-Year-Old Firefighter Responding to 9/11. 6 Years Later, He Got Mysteriously Sick

Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

Former Daily Show Jon Stewart has been a major advocate for the fund, keeping up pressure on legislators for its passing and working closely with first responders such as Michael O’Connell and Luis Alvarez, who died not long after testifying before Congress.

Stewart grew emotional after the bill was passed.

“This has been the honor of my life to work with the men and women behind me,” he said Tuesday. “We can never repay all that the 9/11 community has done for our country, but we can stop penalizing them.”

“And today is that day, that they can exhale, because unfortunately the pain and suffering of what these heroes continue to go through is going to continue,” he added. “There’ve been too many funerals. Too many hospices. These families deserve better.”

RELATED: ‘We Are Seeing People Dropping Like Flies’: Meet the 9/11 First Responders Now Fighting for Their Own Lives

John Feal, a 9/11 responder and advocate, described the successful Senate vote as a relief, not victory.

“Passing this legislation — there’s no joy. There’s no comfort. Yes, I cried with Jon. But that was to exhale,” he said, according to ABC. “That was to get 18 years of pain and suffering out.”

Previous versions of the bill had expiration dates in 2004, 2015 and 2020, according to CNN, and each allotted around $7 billion in compensation.

“The Senate promised that we would ‘never forget,’ ” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said after the vote, according to CNN. “And today we finally lived up to that promise.”

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