October 11, 2017 - Southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia's congressional delegation in Washington is backing the American Miners Pension Act, a necessary measure aimed at protecting more than 87,000 current beneficiaries and another 20,000 eligible coal miners with vested pension.
The 1974 UMWA Pension Plan is currently headed toward insolvency. The AMP Act aims to shore up the 1974 plan to ensure retired miners in the country, including the 26,967 retired miners in West Virginia and 7,300 in Virginia, won’t lose the pensions they paid into for decades.
Keep in mind that these are the same brave men and women who helped to power our nation while laboring deep underground. Now it is up to Congress to ensure that they receive their hard-earned benefits.
Specifically, the AMP Act would use the provision from the Miners Protection Act to allow transfers of excess funds in the Abandoned Mine Land program to the 1974 UMWA pension plan.
The bill was introduced last week by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., U.S. Rep. David McKinely, R-W.Va., U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-Va., and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Va.
The Abandoned Mine Land program uses fees paid by present-day coal mining companies to reclaim mines abandoned before 1977, according to a CNHI News West Virginia report. The American Miners Pension Act would also direct the Treasury Department to loan the pension plan funds annually; cap the annual loan amount at $600 million and set the interest rate at 1 percent; require the fund to pay interest for the first 10 years and then pay back the principal plus interest over a 30-year term; and require the fund to certify each year that the pension plan is solvent and able to pay back the principal and interest.
Congress passed legislation earlier this year to ensure health benefits for 22,600 miners. Now it is important for lawmakers to take additional steps to ensure that the retired coal miners receive the pension they rightfully earned.
The American Miners Pension Act merits full consideration and support.