WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal legislation that would guarantee pension and health care funding for retired coal miners and the widows of miners has been reintroduced in the U.S. Senate.
The Miners Protection Act would use money from the Abandoned Mine Lands fund to inject money into a program that has fallen on tough times in recent years for several reasons including a growing number of bankrupt coal companies.
The program is currently being funded by a continuing resolution passed by Congress in December much to the disappointment of West Virginia U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito. The current funding is in place until April. Manchin urged fellow senators Tuesday not to wait that long.
“Although I was disappointed when the Senate passed a short-term fix to this long-term problem, I was encouraged when Majority Leader McConnell committed to securing a permanent fix for retired miners and their families,” Senator Manchin said. “I have also received assurances from President-Elect Trump and Vice President-Elect Pence that they would work with me on securing a permanent healthcare solution for miners. That is why re-introducing the Miners Protection Act in the new Congress is so important.
U.S. Senator Capito said she was also disappointed in what happened in December.
“I am committed to working with my colleagues in the Trump Administration and Congress to protect health benefits for West Virginia’s miners, and the bill I am introducing today is the first step to making that a reality. At the same time, we must also advance policies that will put our miners back to work and rebuild local economies that rely on energy production,” said Senator Capito.
United Mine Workers Union President Cecil Roberts had a similar tone in a Tuesday evening news release.
“There is simply no reason not to act, and act quickly. We cannot allow the health care and pension benefits these miners earned in sweat and blood to be stripped away from them. They did everything our nation asked of them, providing the fuel that made America the greatest power on earth,” Roberts said.
Approximately 12,500 retired union miners and the widows of retirees stand to lose their pension and health care benefits. The protection act would transfer excess money from the Abandoned Mine Land fund to the 1974 UMWA pension plan to prevent its insolvency.