May 10, 2017
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Washington, DC -A bipartisan congressional budget committee agreed to a deal May 1 that will bail out a health-care fund covering for 22,000 retired coal miners, including many who suffer from black lung.
The federal government will channel about $100 million a year from customs fees into the fund, which has been nearing insolvency as the coal industry’s decline reduces its revenue. United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts called the agreement “tremendous news” that will give the retirees “peace of mind about their future that has eluded them for years.” “People are just so elated down here,” said Carl Shoupe, a miner from Benham, Kentucky, who relies on his union health coverage to take care of knee injuries he suffered in a 1970 mine collapse. However, the deal did not include any money for the miners’ pension fund, which is expected to become insolvent within two years. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rep. David McKinley (D-W.Va.) have cosponsored a bill to aid that fund, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose state has no union mines, is believed to be blocking it. Both funds were created as part of the settlement of a national coal strike in 1946. Read more