A recently introduced piece of legislation -- the American Miners Act of 2019 -- is aiming to secure the nation's retired miners' pensions and health care.
Introduced by U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Mark Warner, D-Va., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Doug Jones, D-Ala., and Bob Casey, D-Pa., the bill would:
• Amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to transfer funds in excess of the amounts needed to meet existing obligations under the Abandoned Mine Land fund to the 1974 Pension Plan to prevent its insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis.
• Extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund tax at $1.10 per ton of underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton of surface-mined coal for 10 years.
The release said the tax is critical for supporting the Black Lung Disability Trust fund, which provides healthcare and benefits to more than 25,000 miners and their dependents.
• Ensure that the miners who are at risk due to 2018 coal company bankruptcies will not lose their health care.
"Our coal miners made a commitment to provide our nation with the energy we needed to power our nation to prosperity," Manchin said in the release. "They did so time and time again even when it risked their health and their lives."
He continued, "It is our turn now to keep our promise to them and ensure that we secure their hard earned pensions and their promised healthcare and black lung benefits. We cannot continue to allow these solutions to be put off again and again. Our retirees and their widows deserve better than that."
Manchin said for many retired miners, their pensions and health care benefits make all the difference. Without these benefits, he said some would have to choose between paying their mortgage or being kicked out of their home, or putting food on their tables or going hungry.
"I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to finally secure our miners pensions and healthcare," Manchin said.
Kaine said he's hopeful Congress will act quickly on this legislation to give miners peace of mind.