Bipartisan legislation seeks to replenish 9/11 victims fund

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday introduced a plan to permanently authorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund at full level, following the announcement of a funding shortfall revealed earlier this month that would cut rewards to the 9/11 first responders and survivors who have become ill due to exposure to toxins and chemicals.

Comedian Jon Stewart, a prominent advocate for first responders, praised the U.S. Justice Department's administration of the fund, saying it was doing "an excellent job."

"The claims are going through faster and the awards are coming through," Stewart said. "That's why we're in the problem that we're in, is the program works exactly like it's supposed to. So now it's Congress' job to fund it properly and let these people live in peace."

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund announced earlier this month that due to a lack of funding, responders and survivors would receive cuts to the awards that they were expecting for illnesses. Without passage of the bipartisan legislation, future payments to those who have been diagnosed with 9/11 cancers and other illnesses would be cut by up to 70 percent.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; 2020 presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; New York Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney; Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Cory Gardner, R-Co., co-sponsored the bill.

When the fund was created in 2011, it processed about 19,000 claims. But in recent years, the claims have soared to more than 40,000.