Congressman David B. McKinley, P.E., (WV-1) re-introduced legislation on the very first day of the 115th Congress to protect pensions and health benefits for over 120,000 retirees and their family members, threatened by coal company bankruptcies in recent years.
"Our coal miners have worked tirelessly over the last several decades to power this country. They earned these benefits and they don't deserve to have them taken away. This is an urgent issue and we need to act as soon as possible," said McKinley.
"Fortunately, we have a solution. Our legislation will protect the pensions and healthcare coverage for over 120,000 retirees and their family members. Let's not kick this can down the road any longer. We need to come together and pass this legislation so that coal miners and their loved ones have the peace of mind they deserve, and know their benefits won't be threatened in the future," McKinley said.
A Continuing Resolution (CR) in December extended healthcare benefits for many coal miner retirees and their families but it only extends until to April 28th, 2017. If action is not taken soon, over 15,000 people could begin to lose their health benefits when the CR expires. Before Congress adjourned for the holidays, Congressman McKinley held a colloquy on the House floor and called for swift action on this issue early in the new Congress.
Congressman McKinley has been fighting for a solution to this problem for more than four years, working with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), operators, other industry stakeholders, and members of Congress to solve this problem and introduced The Coal Healthcare and Pension Protection Act in 2013. The Senate subsequently introduced a companion bill in 2015.
The Coal Healthcare and Pension Protection Act:
· Protects pension benefits for 120,000 retirees and their families, and the healthcare coverage of 22,000 retirees threatened by coal company bankruptcies.
· Requires excess funds from the Abandoned Mine Land Fund to be set aside for retired miners' health benefits and ensures the 1974 UMWA pension plan remains solvent.
· Keeps a promise initiated by the Krug-Lewis Agreement signed by the Truman Administration in 1946.
· Prevents the UMWA pension fund from going bankrupt and dumping these retirees into the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).