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House passes social spending bill that extends coal excise tax

On Behalf of | Nov 23, 2021 | Black Lung

The U.S. House of Representatives did its turn to help coal miners suffering from black lung disease, now it is the Senate’s turn. On Nov. 19, the House narrowly passed the Build Back Better Act – a highly touted $1.7 trillion social spending and climate initiative championed by the President Biden administration.

Within this comprehensive package that addresses issues such as affordable housing, climate change and free preschool includes a provision geared toward helping coal miners stricken with an illness that may lead to severe disability and death.

1 in 5 Appalachian coal miners have black lung

That provision within the Build Back Better bill would extend the coal excise tax for four years. The significance of this is that this tax funds the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which many miners with black lung rely on for monthly benefits and health care costs.

Black lung is a serious epidemic in coal-mining regions. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, roughly 10% of underground coal miners who have worked for 25 years in mines suffer from the disease.

However, that number is double among coal miners in central Appalachia where 1 in 5 reportedly have black lung. This represents the highest such level in 25 years.

It may be too soon to applaud the House’s action as the Senate still must take up the bill. The Senate remains optimistic to pass the Build Back Better Act before Christmas, but likely will make a number of changes to it.

Lawmakers are listening

However, this development does represent a small win in knowing that U.S. lawmakers continue to listen. Coal miners who suffer from black lung need these funds to help support their families and pay for the medical expenses attributed to this terrible disease.