COVID relief legislation “a good first step”

DECEMBER 21, 2020


UMWA able to further protect retiree health care in 2021 omnibus

[TRIANGLE, VA.] United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

“The COVID relief package that a bipartisan group of Senators – including the UMWA’s friends Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Mark Warner (D.-Va.), and Rob Portman (R-OH) – initiated is long overdue and a good first step to helping tens of millions of our fellow citizens stay in their homes, feed their families and get the health care they need as this pandemic rages on even stronger. As vaccines begin to be administered around the country, this is more welcome news.

“We were pleased to be able to provide further protection in the FY 2021 omnibus appropriations bill for some 8,000 retired coal miners, their dependents and widows whose companies are still paying for their health care benefits but are threatened with future bankruptcy. 2019 and even more so 2020 have been especially bad years for the coal industry. Although we would much prefer to see the industry reverse its current slide, we needed to take action in case it does not.

“Now those retirees can have the peace of mind that they will have their health care, and funding for their pensions that we won just a year ago will not be threatened. I want to thank our bipartisan friends in the Senate and House who went to leadership about this provision, thank those leaders for agreeing to it and especially thank Speaker Pelosi for being such a strong voice on our retirees’ behalf.

“I am also glad that we were able to extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund excise tax at current levels for an additional year, although we need much more action to stabilize the Fund. The entire Black Lung benefits system needs an overhaul, and this will give us time to get the details of that worked out with all stakeholders.

“I was pleased to see the new round of assistance in the COVID funding package for the unemployed and direct payments to working families. We have close to two thousand of our members who are currently laid off; they and their families can use this assistance immediately. I am also glad to see that our nation’s transportation industry is getting assistance that it so critically needs. It is good news that 32,000 airline employees will be called back to work in the coming days.

“There is much more to be done. The jobs of our first responders who work for state and local governments are in trouble because of Congress’ failure to include assistance for those entities. That puts us all at greater risk. Critical state and municipal services that working families rely on will be put on hold. Congress must build off the spirit of bipartisanship that got this COVID package off the ground and work with the incoming administration to ensure our nation and its people can come out of the pandemic later next year with an economy that is primed to grow and that will leave no one behind.”