Nearly every day, I hear from a retired miner or a miner’s widow concerned about the fate of the pensions they depend on to pay the bills and keep the lights on. The miners’ pension fund is running dry, which is why I’ve continued to push my colleagues to pass a solution to preserve these critical benefits.

We did this last year for miners’ healthcare benefits. After years of uncertainty, miners and their families now have peace of mind that the healthcare benefits they worked to earn will be preserved. They weren’t asking for a handout or a bailout, just what they were promised.

The same goes for their pensions. Back in 1946, President Harry S Truman signed an agreement with coal miners — an agreement that guaranteed their pensions and health care would be there for them when they retired. We secured their healthcare, but that promise for their pensions is in jeopardy.

I recently supported legislation that may help resolve the debate over how to permanently fix miners’ pensions. The Bipartisan Budget Act, signed into law on Feb. 9, established a special committee to work specifically on solving the miners’ pension crisis, with the goal of reaching an agreement by November.

With the success we had last year in finding a permanent solution for miners’ healthcare, I know we can work to find a solution for pensions as well. I am encouraged by the development of this committee and believe it will revive the dialogue between members of Congress about how to best solve this pressing issue. I will be working directly with congressional leadership to find a legislative solution and ensuring that it fulfills the promise we made to miners and their families.

My colleagues and I also have introduced legislation to permanently secure miners’ pensions.

I am a lead co-sponsor of H.R. 3913, the American Miners Pension Act, which would allocate funds to the United Mine Workers of America Pension Plan for pension benefits for miners and their families. The American Miners Pension Act ensures our nation will keep the promise made to our retired miners, their families and their widows.

This is an issue we can fix, but it’s not an issue that arose overnight. The war on coal decimated coal jobs in West Virginia and across the country. An onslaught of new regulations made it harder to mine coal and harder to burn coal. Coal-fired power plants have shut down, making electricity more expensive and reducing the market for coal. All of these — market forces, regulations, the war on coal — have had devastating impacts on our miners and their families.

Now, we have a president who believes in coal — and the hardworking miners who power our nation. President Trump frequently champions coal and praises the dedication and work of our miners. Thanks to his administration, we’re seeing coal mines reopen and a new era of optimism for coal’s role in an all-of-the-above domestic energy strategy.

Our miners helped make this nation what it is today. They mined the coal that forged the steel that built skyscrapers and won world wars. When they went down into the mines, they were made a promise: When you retire, you’ll have a good pension and healthcare benefits. We’ve secured their healthcare benefits, and now it’s time to do the same for their pensions.

A promise made must be a promise kept. Our miners and their widows deserve no less.

Evan Jenkins represents West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District.

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