VIDEO: Kaine Delivers Speech on Senate Floor on Black Lung Benefits in Inflation Reduction Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine delivered a speech on the U.S. Senate floor to discuss black lung benefits in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The legislation would permanently extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund excise tax at a higher rate, providing certainty for miners, miner retirees, and their families who rely on the fund to access benefits. In Virginia, thousands of miners and their families have received benefits through the trust since it was established, including approximately 2,600 Virginians last year alone.
Broadcast-quality video of the Senator’s speech is available here.
During his remarks, Kaine said, “It’s a tough job. It’s a scary job. It’s a dangerous job. But these miners do it every day because the nation needs power, because our steel mills need steel to build aircraft carriers and submarines and skyscrapers … and many of them have done it for generations.”
Kaine also spoke about his longtime commitment to helping Virginia’s miners. “We have made promises to our miners that we’ll protect their health insurance, that we’ll protect their pensions, and that we’ll have a fully funded black lung benefit program to help the many miners—about one in five in Central Appalachia—whose day-in and day-out job inhaling coal dust and silica dust exposes them to a horrible pulmonary disease,” said Kaine. “…We’ve told them we will have a program for them to take care of the need should they come down with black lung.”
“Well, with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act … we can meet all the promises that we’ve made to these miners and their families by fixing the black lung benefit program,” Kaine continued. “…to meet the promise that we made to these hardworking people. This will provide permanent, sufficient funding to maintain the solvency of the fund, and our miners can be assured that the program will be—as they’re going underground every day and doing that tough job—they can be assured that the program will be there for them should they get black lung disease.”
He concluded by thanking the many Virginia coal miners, “I want to thank Virginia’s coal miners for their friendship, for their patriotism, for their determination, and for never giving up, including never giving up on us.”
In 1972, Congress passed the Black Lung Benefits Act and established the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund to provide monthly payments and medical benefits to disabled coal miners who developed black lung disease while working. The benefits are paid for through excise taxes on coal, which were raised in the 1980s in order to pay for the trust fund’s expenses. This level of excise tax expired on December 31, 2021, cutting this funding source by more than 50%.
Kaine, a strong advocate for Virginia’s miners, introduced legislation last year to extend the excise tax until 2031. Earlier this year, Kaine joined his colleagues in introducing the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act, legislation to help miners with black lung disease and their survivors access benefits. In 2019, Kaine successfully pushed to include a fix for miners’ health care and pensions. In 2018, Kaine also secured passage of provisions to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease.