U.S. Senators Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) have introduced the American Miners Act of 2019, legislation to secure our nation's retired miners pensions by: 1) shoring up the 1974 Pension Plan which is headed for insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis, 2) ensuring that the miners who are at risk due to 2018 coal company bankruptcies will not lose their healthcare, and 3) extending 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 ten years. This 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.
The American Miners Act of 2019 will 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. It will also amend the Coal Act to include 2018 bankruptcies in the miners' healthcare fix that passed in 2017, and extend the tax that funds the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund at 2018 levels for 10 years.
For more information on the American Miners Act of 2019, click here.
"I saw firsthand growing up how important pension benefits were for miners. My grandfather was a coal miner and he and my grandmother depended on his monthly pension," said Senator Jones. "He worked hard to earn that pension and without it they could not have made ends meet. Since coming to the Senate, I have met with many miners and retirees who are worried about losing their health and pension benefits through no fault of their own. This bill is designed to help people like them. These miners and retirees have given so much to fuel our country, and they deserve the peace of mind that their pensions and health care benefits will not be taken away."
"Our coal miners made a commitment to provide our nation with the energy we needed to power our nation to prosperity. They did so time and time again even when it risked their health and their lives. 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. For these retired miners, their pensions and healthcare benefits are the difference between paying their mortgage or being kicked out of their home, it's the difference between 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," Senator Manchin said.
"Virginia's miners earned their pensions and health care benefits after years of difficult and dangerous work to provide us energy," Senator Kaine said. "I hope that Congress will quickly act on this legislation and give miners peace of mind."
"Congress made a promise in 1946 to protect coal miners after a lifetime of arduous and dangerous work to help power this nation," said Senator Warner. "This legislation would ensure that we fulfill that promise by protecting retired coal miners across the country, including in Virginia, where roughly 500 miners and their dependents are at risk of losing their healthcare following the bankruptcy of Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Company. This bill will also protect miners' hard-earned pensions, and makes important changes I've been pushing for to defend and strengthen the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which provides healthcare and benefits for thousands of retirees suffering from this deadly disease."
"Ohio miners put their health at risk for their country. And after years of backbreaking and dangerous work, they deserve the health care and pension benefits they've earned," said Brown. "We need to be a country that values hard work and respects the people who do it. We can start by keeping our promise to these miners," Senator Brown said.
"It is our responsibility to keep our promises to the men and women who built our great nation. I won't stop fighting until we've secured healthcare benefits, pensions, and an extension of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund for coal miners and their families. I hope Congressional Republicans will join our mission to address this crucial issue in rural America," Senator Casey said.