Scott, Neal Release New GAO Report on the Solvency of the Black Lung Trust Fund
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03), Committee on Education and the Workforce and Ranking Member Richard Neal (MA-01), Committee on Ways and Means issued the following statements after the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report titled, “Black Lung Benefits Program: Options for Improving Trust Fund Finances.” The Members requested the report to investigate the solvency of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund given the impending sunset of the coal tax rate at the end of this year, which would reduce the rate by 55 percent.
“The GAO’s report on the solvency of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund crystalizes the enormous cost of inaction. If we fail to at least extend the current tax rate on coal before it sunsets at the end of this year, the Fund’s debt will spiral out of control and inevitably force taxpayers to cover the cost. If history is any guide, an insurmountable debt could also jeopardize the benefits that disabled miners and their families were promised. In establishing the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund nearly 40 years ago, Congress made clear that the cost of caring for miners should not fall on the shoulders of taxpayers or the miners themselves,” said Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03), Committee on Education and the Workforce. “At a time when cases of the most severe form of black lung disease are rising at an alarming rate ─ and more miners will need comprehensive and costly care – the administration’s silence on the potential insolvency of the Trust Fund is deeply concerning. Without action from the administration and Congress, coal companies will be allowed to shift their responsibilities to taxpayers and ultimately risk the modest benefits that support disabled miners and their families.”
“The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was established 40 years ago to pay benefits to disabled miners suffering from black lung disease. Today’s Government Accountability Office’s report on the solvency of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, points out that the fund is deeply in the red and that its debt will continue to grow if nothing is done. Insolvency of the trust fund could jeopardize the benefits that disabled miners and their families were promised,” said Ranking Member Richard Neal (MA-01) “Cutting benefits to these miners and their families is not an option and, as GAO has noted, will not solve the funding challenges facing the trust fund. The administration has done nothing on this issue so Congress must work to ensure that the promises made to these miners and their families are kept.”