LOGAN W.Va. — Congressman Evan Jenkins, along with a raft of local leaders, made a presentation concerning the new Creating Opportunities for America’s Laid-off Miners Act or COAL Act at Pride Community Services July 27.
Jenkins was introduced by Danny Ellis of the Logan County Commission.
Jenkins’ presentation centered on four main points, and while the first facet of the speech focused on Jenkins’ fight to bring coal back, he explained the process could be a long one.
The COAL Act would take a portion of funds originating from the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) program which Jenkins explained has a $3 billion fund accruing interest.
The bill would reportedly use some of the interest from the AML program to support the solvency of retired miner’s pensions and health care benefits.
Joe Carter, with the United Mine Workers Association, explained, “There are over 100,000 people dependent on their healthcare and pensions. They have already worked all their lives. The coal companies are falling all over themselves to get away from having to pay healthcare and pension benefits.“
The COAL Act would also allow the extension of unemployment benefits in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
States could enter into agreements with the Department of Labor to possibly extend unemployment benefits for four months.
If states opt-in to the plan, they must offer employment or job retraining services so that former miners can retrain for different jobs which remain in demand.
“We’ve got $5,000 stipends for disolocated local miners to go get the training they need to go back to work. We want those coal jobs back, but we also know people need to put bread on the table today. They need a job today,” commented Jenkins.
Reggie Jones, with Pride Community Services, explained his organization seeks to care for the very populations who could be affected by loss of pension and healthcare benefits, and Jones noted support of the bill’s fraud protection and training requirements.
After the presantation ended, Jenkins explained his staff is available to help people who are going through black lung claims or social security claims.
Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 or by email at [email protected]