Coal continues to come out of states like West Virginia, but Congress is still digging at a solution for thousands of retired miners who lost health care and pension benefits as a result of the financial crisis and corporate bankruptcies.
Marvin Turner, a retired miner, worriedly told us, “See, people like myself, or even others, we couldn’t go out to work and get a job nowhere to support ourselves, but I don’t think we should have to. I think we’ve done and warned that.”
Lawmakers must vote soon, as temporary benefits expire this Friday, April 28th, and with the deadline just two days away, West Virginia’s U.S. Senators say they are hopeful that Congress will pass the permanent health care extension for miners.
Senator Joe Manchin, said, “We’re going to get them a permanent fix, so they don’t have to keep worrying about it every 3 months. So we’re going to fix it this time. Once and for all.”
And Senator Shelley Moore Capito, said, “You know, we’re not going to leave until we get that permanent fix. I think that’s the stance that we have. We’re fighting hard, we have both parties, and the leadership, and the President, all on the same page. We should be able to get this done.”
If this act does not pass, more than 25,000 retired coal miners throughout the United States will lose their benefits, and over 9,000 of these coal miners are from right here in West Virginia.
Coal miners put their lives at risk every day doing this dangerous job, and although the industry will probably never get back to what it used to be, these workers just want to be sure they are protected by safety regulations and that they are guaranteed their benefits.
The Miner’s Protection Act would ensure that the retired miners receive more than $250 million dollars a year in benefits for health care and pensions.
“I think that’s the most important thing to me… is being able to take care of my family,” Turner added.
The bill has bipartisan support, and President Trump promises to sign it. So for now, retired coal miners and their families will have to wait in hopes for a guarantee answer.