A radiological technician appears on the chest x-ray of a retired coal miner who has difficult black lung illness, in St. Charles, Virginia, U.S., Might 18, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bunch of coal miners with black lung illness met with Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell on Tuesday as a part of an effort to persuade lawmakers to revive the next excise tax on coal firms to assist fund their medical care, however a number of stated the assembly left them discouraged.
McConnell, the Republican chief who represents Kentucky – one of many states that has seen a rebound within the progressive respiratory sickness – advised them their advantages could be secure however gave no assurances in regards to the excise tax and left with out answering questions or providing particulars, a number of of the miners who attended the assembly stated.
“We rode up right here for 10 hours by bus to get some solutions from him as a result of he represents our state,” stated George Massey, a miner from Harlan County, Kentucky who spent 20 years within the mines and is on incapacity. “For him to come back in for simply two minutes was a low-down disgrace.”
David Mullins, who labored in coal mines for 34 years and is presently battling a sophisticated stage of black lung illness, stated he was additionally pissed off. “It’s time to behave,” he stated, whereas carrying a “Black Lung Kills” T-shirt and utilizing an oxygen tank.
Coal firms had been required to pay a $1.10 per ton tax on underground coal to finance the federal Black Lung Incapacity Belief Fund, which helps disabled miners whose employers go bankrupt and may not pay out medical advantages. However the quantity reverted to the 1977 stage of 55 cents this 12 months after Congress declined to take motion to keep up the speed.
The coal business had lobbied laborious to permit the tax to drop as scheduled, regardless of a authorities report saying the fund was in dire monetary straits, arguing the businesses had been already going through financial ache and that advantages for miners wouldn’t be affected.
McConnell spokeswoman Stephanie Penn stated the senator “was glad to welcome his constituents to the Capitol” however didn’t touch upon miners’ complaints. She stated he’s “working carefully with events concerning future funding for this system and can proceed to make sure these necessary advantages are maintained.”
Massey and Mullins had been amongst 120 miners and their households who traveled to Washington to name on Congress to revive the upper tax. The group additionally met with Democratic senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Democratic Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott – all of whom have supported completely different payments that may defend and strengthen their black lung advantages.
The Authorities Accountability Workplace has stated with out an extension of earlier tax ranges the fund’s debt will rise from $5 billion to $15 billion by 2050 – a burden that may probably should be met by U.S. taxpayers as a substitute of coal firms. Coal firm bankruptcies and a resurgence of the illness are accelerating the danger of insolvency for the fund, in line with the accountability workplace.
Modifying by Richard Valdmanis, Tom Brown and Chris Reese