WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito is asking President-elect Donald Trump to address the Miners Protection Act early in his administration after a short-term extension of miners’ health benefits.
“There will be a need to address this issue again in the early part of next year,” Capito spokeswoman Ashley Berrang told The West Virginia Record.
A government-funding bill known as the “continuing resolution” also calls for critical resources to help West Virginia communities recover from the June floods and to fight the opioid epidemic.
During the week of Dec. 5, the House of Representatives advanced the continuing resolution with only a four-month extension of health care benefits for miners who would otherwise have lost those benefits Jan. 1.
The Miners Protection Act was subsequently introduced by Capito (R-W.Va.) and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) as an amendment to the continuing resolution to permanently protect the health care and pension benefits of miners.
However, the Senate voted to end debate and amendments on the resolution. Once the opportunity to amend or change the continuing resolution ended, Capito voted for final passage of the continuing resolution to extend miners’ health care for four months, avoid a government shutdown and help West Virginians suffering from flood damage and opioid addiction.
“[In addition to preserving miners’ jobs, Capito] wants to preserve their healthcare and pension benefits,” Berrang said.
In a letter sent to Trump, Capito urges the president elect to “work with Congress” to address the miners’ needs, Berrang said.
“I am very disappointed that the continuing resolution only extends health care coverage to our miners for four months,” Capito told The West Virginia Record in a statement. “Four months of health care is clearly not the result I wanted. It is not the result our miners wanted, nor is it the result they deserve.”
In addition, Capito said a government shutdown would not have protected health benefits for the miners.
“There is much work to be done in the next Congress to address this issue and bring jobs back to our coal communities,” Capito said.
The continuing resolution includes $1.8 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program to be used to rebuild areas impacted by natural disasters. It is estimated West Virginia will receive tens of millions of dollars from that program.
The continuing resolution that passed the Senate Dec. 9 by a vote of 63-36 funds the government through April 28 and goes to the president to be signed into law.
“Preserving retirement benefits for our nation’s coal miners is among the most important and pressing items on the congressional agenda,” Capito said in her letter to Trump. “I look forward to working with you on policies that will help put our miners back to work and rebuild local economies that rely on energy production. It is just as important that we act to preserve health care and pension benefits for retirees who have suffered from the down turn in the coal industry.”