Jon Stewart would not give up. He would not give up because he thought it was criminal that the first responders to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York might not get the health care they need and deserve. He even made a return to his old stomping grounds recently to engage in a little Congress shaming to spur lawmakers to pass a renewal of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
And, on Tuesday (Dec. 15), his efforts paid off when Congress voted to essentially provide permanent health care for the thousands of first-responders who've suffered medical complications from being exposed to chemicals and debris during the rescue and clean-up following the attacks. Many of those responders are dying and can't afford to pay their astronomical medical bills.
They can rest a bit easier now that an $8.1 billion reauthorization of the Zadroga Act has been passed, with around $3.5 billion earmarked for the World Trade Center Health Program, which will guarantee treatment for the 72,000 known responders and survivors. The Act was first passed by Congress in 2010 and parts of it expired on September 30, 2015, with the rest set to expire by October of 2016. Thanks to Tuesday's action, though, the program is slated to last until 2090.
"This agreement is incredible news for our 9/11 heroes and their families, and it is a testament to the extraordinary power that Americans can have when they raise their voice and demand action," Democratic New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said.
Her Democratic New York colleague Sen. Chuck Schumer added, "Now those who rushed to the towers will know that if they get sick because of their bravery, the federal government will be there for them the way they were there for us... It took too long, but Congress finally rose to its responsibility to help our heroes."