By Sarah Plummer
April 18, 2017 - West Virginia’s senators and representatives are urging congressional leaders to include a permanent solution for miners’ benefits in the government funding bill that Congress will consider next week.
The Miners Protection Act next week honors the promise of health care and retirement benefits to retired miners and their families who are facing uncertainty as a result of coal industry bankruptcies.
The letter was sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and was signed by Joe Manchin, Shelley Moore Capito, David McKinley, Alex Mooney, Evan Jenkins and United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts.
The letter states, “As Congress considers a continuing resolution to keep the government running, we fully expect that such a vehicle will include the permanent health care fix for our nation’s retired miners as promised at the end of 2016 and proposed in the Miners Protection Act. Anything less is merely an extension of the ongoing uncertainty and agony that these men and women have been carrying for years. 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.”
A continuing resolution granted a four-month extension of benefits, but should that expire, 22,600 retired coal miners are expected to lose their health care benefits.
In West Virginia alone, nearly 8,500 rely on these benefits, according to the letter.
The proposed bill continues the Krug-Lewis Agreement, which committed to lifetime health and retirement benefits for miners in 1946.
The Coal Act and its 2006 amendments re-committed the government to the health and retirement security of our nation’s miners and their families.