Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) released a statement following the release of Congress’ year-end Continuing Resolution, which keeps the government funded. The legislation does not prevent coal miners in Pennsylvania and across the nation from losing their pensions and health care; the bill only includes a four month extension of health care benefits without any pension relief, so short a time that recipients would be notified almost simultaneously that they are both eligible for benefits and that their benefits will terminate.
“This so-called ‘fix’ designed in secret by Congressional Republican leadership is nothing more than a profound betrayal of coal miners and their families in Pennsylvania and across the nation. The Miners Protection Act ensures that the federal government will keep the promise of pensions and health care to coal miners and their families. This proposal does nothing to protect pensions, and will extend health coverage for so short a time that recipients would be notified almost simultaneously that they are both eligible for benefits and that their benefits will terminate. For over a year, I’ve worked in a bipartisan fashion to move this legislation forward, yet the Republicans’ congressional leaders, Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell, have refused to work in good faith to schedule a vote. Last week I wrote to President-elect Trump asking him to use his influence with Congressional Republicans to include the Miners Protection Act in an end of the year bill. The provisions relating to coal miners included in the Congress’ end of the year bill is a shameful slap in the face to men and women who have given so much for our nation. We have a bipartisan bill that is fully paid for, there is no reason for delay.”
Retired miners are facing uncertainty because the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) 1974 Pension Plan is severely underfunded. Unlike other public and private pension plans, the 1974 Pension Plan was well-managed and funded prior to the 2008 financial crisis, which hit at a time when this Plan had its highest payment obligations. This – coupled with the fact that 60% of the beneficiaries are “orphan” retirees whose employers are no longer in the coal business, and the fact that there are only 10,000 active workers for 120,000 retirees – has placed the Plan on the road to insolvency. If the Plan becomes insolvent, these beneficiaries face benefit cuts and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will assume billions of dollars in liabilities.