WASHINGTON — West Virginia lawmakers and the president of the largest coal miners union in North America sent a letter Monday to congressional leadership asking for a way to fund miners’ benefits.
U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va.; Alex Mooney, R-W.Va.; Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va.; and Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, sent the letter to ask leaders from both legislative chambers to include a permanent solution for the Miners Protection Act in the upcoming government funding bill.
“This bill is simple – it is the continuation of a longstanding commitment by our government to lifetime health and retirement benefits for our miners,” said the letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; R-Ky.; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The Miners Protection Act dates back to 1946, when the United Mine Workers of America and the federal government agreed to fund lifetime health and retirement benefits for miners with at least 20 years of experience.
A deal was passed in December to fund the act through transferring money from the Abandoned Mine Lands program. The plan is set to expire April 30 along with a resolution that continued government funding.
“In March, these miners received letters notifying them of this impending termination and, sadly, it is not the first such letter they have received,” the letter said.
The letter said the extension was simply a transfer of funds already belonging to miners in their voluntary employees’ beneficiary association plans, with the timeline for 6,500 miners having already been shortened.
“Anything less is an unacceptable and tragic failure of this body to keep its word to the men and women who powered our nation to prosperity at the risk of their own health and lives,” the letter said.
During a March 16 town hall in South Charleston, Manchin said McConnell was to blame for the delay of any legislation connected to extending to act.
Congress passed a resolution in December to fund the government through late April in anticipation of the incoming Trump administration.
Members have been on a state and district work period since April 10. The Senate will reconvene April 24, while members of the House of Representatives will return April 25.