WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Joe Manchin (D – WV) hosted a conference call December 1, concerning the fight to ensure continued funding of benefits for retired miners from the UMWA.
Manchin noted if UMWA Health and Retirement Funds are not kept solvent around 22,500 miners and their family members would lose their healthcare benefits by the end of 2017 and pension funding that supports around 90,000 miners would begin to a downward spiral.
To prevent adverse affects on retired miners and their families, funding for the benefits must be secured in a continuing budget resolution by December 9.
A continuing resolution would keep the entire government solvent until a full budget could be passed.
Manchin explained, “We won’t know until Monday (December 5) if thats on the continuing resolution — if its incorporated in what Paul Ryan…sends to over to us. I have a democrat caucus that’s saying we’re willing to hold up the CR (continuing resolution) in passing…until the miners are taken care of. That being said, we don’t want to get to that point. We should never be at this point right now.”
Manchin noted money to pay for the benefits’ $2.9 billion price tag would not come from tax payers but from funds from the Abandoned Mine Lands program.
The healthcare and pension benefits each make up around half of the total cost.
Manchin commented that if funding for the pensions is delayed, its cost alone could eventually be $6 billion, and he cited the Congressional Budget Office’s estimation that passing the healthcare funding would save the federal government about $500 million in medicaid and other costs as retired miners would be forced onto systems funded by tax payers.
In an agreement to end a national UMWA strike in 1946 known as the Promise of 1946 or the Krug-Lewis Agreement, the federal government guaranteed healthcare and pension benefits for retired miners.
“For them to say now that they want to walk away and we have no obligation and responsibility is absolutely and totally irresponsible. You’re allowing companies to basically escape their liabilities, declare bankruptcy and wipe their slate clean…,” added Manchin.
Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1729 or by email at [email protected]