Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) reintroduced the Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Act of 2021. The legislation calls for a ten-year extension of the current black lung excise tax that is set to expire in December 2021 to ensure that coal miners suffering from Black Lung Disease and their families have access to the quality medical care they desperately need. Without revenue from this tax, the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund will face insolvency at a time when the nationwide prevalence of black lung is increasing.
“Coal miners have kept the lights on in this country for decades. In doing so, many have risked their lives and now have life-threatening health complications. We owe it to coal miners suffering from Black Lung Disease to keep our promise and ensure they’re taken care of. This legislation would ensure the continuity of the trust fund, especially given the resurgence of Black Lung Disease, and would provide the health and disability benefits many coal miners need,” said Senator Casey. “I will keep fighting to make sure that Congress keeps its promise to take care of our miners.”
“For generations, our brave coal miners have risked their lives and health to power our great nation and as a result many of our miners have Black Lung Disease. After their enormous sacrifices, they have earned the vital treatment and medical care they need. I am proud to introduce the Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Act of 2021 with my colleagues to extend the black lung excise tax to fund the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund for the next ten years. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help us pass this crucial legislation to support our coal miners who have given so much to our country,” said Senator Manchin.
“Ohio miners have put their health at risk for years to power our country, and, now, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we need to take this first step to ensure they have access to desperately needed medical care,” said Senator Brown. “Congress must now do its part and extend the funding for the Black Lung Trust Fund, so we can ensure these miners have access to the care and resources needed to prevent and treat black lung disease.”
“Virginia miners risk their lives to help power and build our nation. They deserve access to quality treatment for Black Lung Disease if needed,” said Senator Kaine. “This bill is part of an effort to guarantee our miners are still able get the care they need by ensuring that the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund stays solvent. As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, I will continue fighting for Virginia miners and their families.”
“Our coal miners have sacrificed so much and risked their lives in order to fuel our nation. They deserve to know that they will receive the treatment and medical care they need. The Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund will ensure that miners suffering from black lung disease who rely on the fund get the care they deserve,” said Senator Warner.
“We thank Senators Manchin, Brown, Kaine, Casey and Warner for continuing their long-term commitment to help miners suffering from Black Lung. The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund is a critical backstop providing benefits to miners, and widows of miners killed by this insidious disease, that can help keep them out of poverty and provide them with the care they need. Much needs to be done to address longer-term systemic issues with the entire Black Lung benefits system, but the first step is making sure there is adequate funding for the Trust Fund to pay benefits going forward. This bill will do that, and I applaud its introduction,” said Cecil Roberts, International President of the United Mine Workers of America.
The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund is financed primarily by an excise tax on coal produced and sold domestically. This tax was first established in 1978 at $0.50 per ton on underground-mined coal and $0.25 per ton on surface-mined coal. The funding was later raised to the current rates of $1.10 per ton for underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton for surface-mined coal. Due to congressional inaction, on December 31, 2018, the tax rate reverted back to $0.50 per ton on underground-mined coal and $0.25 per ton on surface-mined coal, representing a 55% reduction. At the end of 2019 and 2020, Congress passed, and President Donald Trump signed into law, end-of-year spending packages that included one-year extensions of the 2018 tax rates. The current rates are now set to expire on December 31, 2021.
Read the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund Act here.