Congress Members Introduce Bill to Protect Miners Pensions

New Act would direct Treasury to make loans to near-insolvent plans.

Four members of Congress introduced the American Miners Pension Act (AMP Act) on Tuesday in Washington D.C. The bill is designed to protect the health benefits of more than 100,000 coal miners.

The AMP Act seeks to shore up the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan and ensure that its 100,000-plus members keep their current pensions. The plan currently faces insolvency.

In May, Congress extended health care benefits for more than 20,000 retirees upon the expiration of those benefits with the passage of the Miners Protection Act.

At a press conference to announce the introduction of the legislation, Senators Joe Manchin (Democrat, WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (Republican, WV) and Representatives David McKinley (Republican, WV) and Peter Welch (Democrat, VT), along with United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts and retired miners, explained the legislation, its importance, and why they believe a speedy adoption is essential for all parties involved.

“We have come together today to deliver on an unfinished promise. Earlier this year, we passed legislation to ensure the health benefits of 22,600 miners,” Senator Manchin said at the conference. “The bill we will introduce today, the American Miners Pension Act, protects the pensions of nearly 87,000 current beneficiaries and another 20,000 eligible coal miners with vested pensions. Let’s finish what we started and pass this fix to ensure our coal miners keep their hard-earned pensions.” 

The AMP Act would use the provision from the Miners Protections Act, which is separate from the AMP Act, to allow transfers of excess funds in the Abandoned Mine Land program into the UMWA plan. The government-sponsored Abandoned Mine Land program reclaims mines abandoned before 1977 using fees paid by current coalmining companies.

The US Treasury would also be directed by the AMP Act to loan the pension plan funds annually, capping the annual loan amount at $600 million with a 1% interest rate. The fund will be required to pay interest for the first 10 years, paying back the principal plus interest over a 30-year period. The fund will also be required to certify annually that the plan is solvent and able to pay back both the principal and interest.

“Congress needs to keep the promise made to our miners and protect the pension benefits these men and women earned with their sweat. More than 117,000 miners and their families are counting on us,” Congressman McKinley said.

The full conference can be watched on Senator Manchin’s YouTube channel.

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