Coal miners urge passage of permanent funding for federal black lung benefits
With the Inflation Reduction Act poised to pass the U.S. House, coal miners, including those in Virginia, could finally secure permanent funding for a federal trust fund that pays for medical treatment of miners suffering from black lung if the responsible coal company doesn’t pay.
“This is real important to us and to every coal miner because you can see that actually (black lung) doesn’t get any better. It gets worse,” said Vonda Robinson, vice president of the National Black Lung Association and a Southwest Virginia resident, during an Aug. 4 press call organized by nonprofit ReImagine Appalachia.
Federal law requires coal mine operators to pay benefits to miners disabled by black lung, an incurable disease caused by the inhalation of coal dust, which has been especially persistent in the Appalachian region.
If the operator no longer exists, has no successor, or is unable to pay the benefits, the government will step in to bear the cost through the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, a pot of money funded by an excise tax on coal.
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