In August, miners and their families celebrated the passage of a permanent excise tax that will fund the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund; however, our work is hardly over.
With the funding secure, we can now focus on some of the other issues affecting miners applying or receiving benefits. A major issue that has became more apparent with inflation is the cost of living and how little our benefits actually cover. The process for applying for Black Lung benefits is long and at the end of it the pay is little with a single miner receiving a little over $700 and a couple receiving just over $1,000 a month.
My husband was a miner and now has Black Lung disease. The monthly stipend for benefits has never been sufficient, but now it hardly will cover our energy bills, gas, and groceries for a month; particularly when we spend several times a week driving to appointments to try to maintain my husband’s health. I try to budget, but each trip to the gas station or store is a reminder of how much is now removed from our available funds.
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The Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act was introduced in the House by District 3 Representative Bobby Scott. This bill includes an increase in the monthly benefits that miners and their families are dependent upon. We are so appreciative of this bill, but are ready to see our representatives in the Virginia coalfields step up to support coal miners.
Vonda Robinson | Gate City, Virginia