Virginia senators introduce bill to protect coal miners' pensions, healthcare

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WASHINGTON (WJHL) - Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have introduced a bill they say will protect the pensions and healthcare benefits of coal miners.

The American Miners Act of 2019 would bail out the 1974 United Mine Workers of America Pension Plan, which is at risk of becoming insolvent due to recent coal company bankruptcies. It would protect about 87,000 current beneficiaries and about 20,000 retirees, including around 7,000 pensioners in Virginia.

According to the senators, the UMWA pension plan is expected to become insolvent around 2023.

If passed, the bill would secure the pension plan by increasing the cap on federal contributions from $490 million a year to $750 million.

The legislation would also protect the healthcare benefits of more than 500 Virginians impacted by the 2018 bankruptcy of Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Co. It would extend a 2017 law that protects the healthcare benefits of more than 10,000 Virginia miners affected by coal company bankruptcies.

The senators say their bill will also help miners suffering from black lung. The legislation would shore up the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund by extending a tax of $1.10 per ton of underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton of surface-mined coal for ten years.

The American Miners Act of 2019 is also sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Doug Jones (D-AL) and Bob Casey (D-PA).

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