Dozens of city firefighters will rally Wednesday in Washington to push Congress to extend federal health benefits for 9/11 first responders, and they're bringing one of their biggest supporters.
Former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart will join the firefighters and others from across the country to lobbying to prevent expiration of the Zadroga Act. Stewart was instrumental in getting the act passed in 2010 after he called out several congress members who didn't support the bill for their apparent hypocrisy.
The firefighters' union chief said he hopes Stewart can get the ball rolling for the renewal.More storiesNewsday's coverage of September 11, 2001See alsoList of Sept. 11 victims
"Some of them will be shaking in their boots knowing Jon Stewart will put the spotlight on them," Richard Alles, the Uniformed Fire Officers Association legislative director, said at a news conference Monday.
The Zadroga Act gives 70,000 first responders and survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks $4 billion for medical monitoring and financial help to cope with illnesses. The health care portion expires next month and money for the services will be gone by October 2016.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), a co-sponsor with others, including Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), said supporters want to renew the bill and remove the expiration date.
At least 3,700 responders have been diagnosed with forms of cancer, according to the fire officers association, and Maloney said more will show signs of diseases in coming years.
"The illness will be with them for the rest of their lives. Why does it stop after five years?" she asked.She said the bill was a nonstarter in 2010 until Stewart featured 9/11 first responders on his show and juxtaposed clips of opponents thanking those men and women while filibustering it.
As of Monday, the bill, introduced in April, had 150 co-sponsors in House and 36 co-sponsors inthe Senate.
About 100 firefighters will take a bus Wednesday and meet colleagues at a rally with Stewart at the Capitol Triangle.Union president James Lemonda, stressed the bill affects all first responders who face terror attacks, and there is a lot more at stake if it lapses.
"This is not a New York City bill. This is not an FDNY bill. . . . This is all-encompassing and we are fighting for everybody," he said.