CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Coal miners across the nation with black lung disease, especially those in the Tri-State, could soon lose their benefits. The federal account is known as the “Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.”
The trust fund pays miners with black lung disease and their families, anywhere from $700 to $1,400 per month in disability benefits. The fund is paid for through a tax on coal that is mined, but the tax was cut in half as the year ended because it was not re-authorized.
President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan would have extended the trust fund by four years, but it failed. West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin is sponsoring a bill to extend the benefits another ten years, but Senate leadership has not yet scheduled a vote.
“When you have something that is as needed as this, and throwing it in a mammoth piece of legislation is always a challenge. So we will find a way to extend that. We have support on both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia.
“We got a lot of families in West Virginia that are being unnecessarily scared to death and worried and feel like they’re being abandoned and absolutely not being appreciated in any way,” said Gov. Jim Justice, (R) West Virginia.
Eligible families are still receiving benefits for now, but the fund is already 5-billion dollars in debt.
if something is not done soon, benefits could suddenly end. Last year in West Virginia, more than 4-thousand families received the black lung disability payments.
Right now Congress is in recess, with members at home visiting their districts. It’s not known how soon Congress will take up bills to fix this, when it gathers again in Washington, DC next week.