Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded $1,197,247 in rural development funding to further telemedicine at the University of Virginia, George Mason University, VCU Health’s Community Memorial Hospital in Mecklenburg County, Va. and the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens in Tazewell County, Va. This funding was awarded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program.

“Telehealth services have the power to decrease travel time and increase access to specialized health care in some of Virginia’s most underserved communities,” said the Senators. “We are thrilled to see these grants go to boosting telemedicine services and provider training at the University of Virginia, George Mason University, VCU’s Community Memorial Hospital, and the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens.”

The funding will be awarded as below:

  • $154,600 for the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens to provide telemedicine services to low-income elderly and disabled individuals who will attend the adult day care facility located in Falls Mills. The facility will provide medical care, nutrition services, and day care and care coordination, while also providing economic development for the community and educational opportunities for the public. This rural investment will benefit approximately 25,000 residents at nine sites across a four-county area.
  • $397,668 for the University of Virginia to enable the Rector and Visitors Center to implement the Virginia Telemedicine Network for Cardio-metabolic disease, Opioid Use Disorder, Ophthalmology, Black Lung Disease and Cancer. The University of Virginia Health System (UVAHS) will serve as the hub site to deliver health care services and training to 19 community health care providers in 12 counties, including federally qualified health centers (FQHC) and free clinics that serve economically distressed regions of Virginia. This project will reach 750,000 rural residents.
  • $500,000 for George Mason University to implement a telemedicine project to provide training of medical professionals in the area of opioid dependency and treatment. This program will serve a population of almost 177,000 residents across Virginia and West Virginia.
  • $144,979 for Community Memorial Hospital to create the Rural Center for Integrated Telemedicine. This center will provide medical services via interactive video conferencing equipment, to four sites in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and will benefit approximately 11,000 residents.

The USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine program helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density. Applicants eligible for Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants include most State and local governmental entities, federally-recognized tribes, nonprofits, for-profit businesses and consortia of eligible entities.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for rural communities and health care access in the Commonwealth. Last year, the Senators saw through the passage of the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, which included a provision by Sen. Warner to expand telehealth services for substance abuse treatment. Additionally, Sen. Warner introduced legislation – cosponsored by Sen. Kaine – last month to expand telehealth services through Medicare, make it easier for patients to connect with their doctors, and help cut costs for patients and providers. Sen. Kaine also introduced legislation to expand health care to rural areas through telehealth. The bill passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in June as part of the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019. And in 2003, then-Gov. Warner expanded Medicaid coverage for telemedicine statewide, including evaluation and management visits, a range of individual psychotherapies, the full range of consultations, and some clinical services, including in cardiology and obstetrics.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $391,400 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for rural business development and public safety.

“We’re pleased to announce these grants to strengthen local businesses and public safety in the Commonwealth,” the Senators said. “This federal assistance will go directly towards supporting local entrepreneurs and law enforcement in Virginia.”

$277,200 in funding comes from USDA’s Rural Business Development Grants program, which seeks to support targeted technical assistance, training, and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging businesses in rural areas:

  • In Bedford, $76,000 will go towards a revolving loan fund to support small and emerging businesses in the area. The fund aims to expand local businesses to create new jobs and stimulate the local economy.
  • In Charlotte County, $126,200 will go towards the purchase of a refrigerated truck and a walk-in cooler for Southside Virginia Fruit and Vegetable Producers. The purchase would help distribute locally grown fresh produce to the community, while supporting the local farmers and assisting 12 businesses.
  • In Roanoke, $75,000 will go towards a revolving loan fund at The Advancement Foundation to assist small and emerging businesses located in Alleghany, Botetourt, and Buchanan Counties. The fund aims to expand local businesses to create new jobs and stimulate the local economy.

$114,200 in assistance comes from USDA’s Economic Impact Initiative Grant, which seeks to help further the development of essential community facilities in rural areas with extreme unemployment or severe economic depression:

  • In Craig County, $25,000 will go towards the purchase of a sheriff's vehicle and equipment. Craig County currently has a patrol car that is no longer deemed be safe or reliable. This purchase will benefit 1,016 people.
  • In Clintwood, $21,000 will go towards the purchase of 10 sets of new turnout gear and related equipment to meet the safety requirements for the fire department. The department’s current equipment no longer meets safety requirement and needs to be replaced to ensure the safety of volunteers. This purchase will benefit 1,414 people.
  • In Grayson County, $19,200 will go towards the purchase of a new properly equipped sheriff's vehicle. Several of the county’s current vehicles are no longer deemed to be safe or reliable. This purchase will benefit 15,533 people.
  • In Lebanon, $25,000 will go towards the purchase of a new properly equipped police vehicle. A number of the county’s current vehicles are no longer deemed to be safe or reliable. This purchase will benefit 3,424 people.
  • In Tazewell, $24,000 will go towards the purchase of a police vehicle. The current vehicles are no longer deemed to be safe or reliable. This purchase will benefit 4,627 people.

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WASHINGTON – Following years of efforts to try to safeguard benefits for mine workers, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), today introduced bipartisan legislation along with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to secure pensions for our nation’s retired miners. The legislation would shore up the 1974 United Mine Workers of America Pension Plan – which is currently headed for insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis – ensuring that at-risk miners do not lose their healthcare due to the 2018 and 2019 coal company bankruptcies.

“After working for so long to get miners the benefits they deserve, this bipartisan legislation is an encouraging step in the right direction,” said the Senators. “Our mine workers have worked extremely hard to power our nation, often at great risk to themselves. The least we can do is make sure they are able to get their hard-earned benefits and pensions, and that once they retire, they can do so with peace of mind. We are proud to introduce this legislation along with our colleagues to help us keep our nation’s promise to miners in the Commonwealth and all across the country.”

The Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019 will amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to transfer excess funds from the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Fund to the 1974 Pension Plan to prevent its insolvency. It will also amend the Coal Act to include 2018 and 2019 bankruptcies in the miners’ healthcare fix that passed in 2017. These actions will secure the pensions of 92,000 coal miners and protect healthcare benefits for 13,000 miners.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been longtime advocates for coal miners and their families. In August 2018, they introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners.

The Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019 is also co-sponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

A copy of the bill is available here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded the acquisition of a significant property by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service. The addition of this land to the Forest Service will help preserve a local historic asset, enhance Virginians’ access to recreation, and protect the water quality of Craig Creek, a tributary to the James River and the Chesapeake Bay. This move follows strong support by Sens. Warner and Kaine, who previously urged the Forest Service to consider the acquisition of this property.

“We are glad to have played a part in helping safeguard this valuable piece of land and make sure it’s protected for years to come,” said the Senators. “We look forward to seeing Virginians take advantage of the increased recreation opportunities presented by this acquisition, and we trust that the Forest Service will work towards the long-term success of the land and its many natural resources.”

The 4,664.5-acre land, located in Botetourt County within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, boasts the historic Grace Furnace, a 19th century iron-ore furnace, as well as 14 freshwater springs, 10 miles of trout streams, and borders 1,000 feet of Craig Creek. The tract contains potential aquatic habitat for the federally listed endangered ‘James spiny-mussel’ and two State-listed threatened species – the ‘Atlantic pigtoe mussel’ and ‘Orange madtom fish.’

This land addition comes as a result of efforts by the Open Space Institute (OSI), which purchased Grace Furnace in December 2016 and conveyed it to the Forest Service earlier this month, and the Chesapeake Conservancy, which coordinated the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) proposal that helped fund the acquisition.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been longtime supporters of preserving Virginia’s natural treasures. Earlier this year, both Senators supported the permanent reauthorization of the LWCF to help preserve and protect Virginia’s public lands. Additionally, Sen. Warner sponsored bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by Sen. Kaine, to address the $12 billion National Park Service (NPS) maintenance  backlog, which has delayed the upkeep of visitor centers, rest stops, trails, campgrounds and transportation infrastructure operated by NPS in the Commonwealth and across the country.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $593,056 in federal funding for a Virginia Tech project to increase the impact of the Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition (ABFFC) by increasing membership and improving opportunities and capabilities among forest farmers. This funding follows a strong push by Sen. Warner, who has urged continued investment in this project by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The funding was awarded through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) at NIFA, which provides grants to support education, mentoring, and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers or ranchers.

“Through the conversations I’ve had with forest farmers in Southwest Virginia, I know the importance of forest farming for both our economy and our ecosystems. That’s why I was glad to have been able to help secure this funding, which will foster leadership and further strengthen our forest farming industry,” said Sen. Warner.

“I’ve traveled across Virginia to hear from farmers about challenges they face and how I can support their work at the federal level. One big concern I heard was about barriers to entry for young people who want to farm. I’m excited that this federal funding will help train the next generation of forest farmers in Virginia,” said Sen. Kaine.

Forest farming is an agroforestry practice that cultivates herbal, edible, decorative, and handicraft non-timber forest products (NTFP) under a forest canopy modified or maintained to provide shade levels and habitats that favor growth and enhance production. Forest farming allows farmers to produce and sell raw material that is traceable, unadulterated, and sustainable. In 2016, consumers spent an estimated $7.45 billion on herbal supplements, an increase of approximately $530 million from 2013. 

ABFFC is a network of forestland owners, universities, and governmental and non-governmental organizations that share a common goal of improving agroforestry production opportunities and farming capabilities among forest farmers. The project, "Seeded and Growing: Sustaining Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Education and Engagement," aims to recruit 400 new and beginning Appalachian forest farmers to ABFFC, increasing membership to more than 1,400. It also seeks to provide advanced training and technical assistance to farmers, as well as promote mentorships, partnerships and networking for new and beginning forest farmers.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $504,450 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the Mount Rogers Health District in Southwest Virginia, which oversees eight localities at the epicenter of the addiction crisis. The funding will allow the district to partner with researchers across the country on solutions to address the addiction crisis in Southwest Virginia. 

“The drug addiction crisis has hurt every region of Virginia. We need to invest in more resources to better understand how to prevent and combat substance use disorders,” the Senators said. “This funding will help expand services for families impacted by addiction and support studies that explore how early exposure to substance abuse affects young people.”

The Mount Rogers Health District serves Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, Washington, and Wythe counties, and the cities of Bristol and Galax. The first round of this project will build capacity at partner sites. The second round will support a ten-year longitudinal study.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded $23,979,453 in federal funding from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand broadband to nearly 7,000 unserved homes and businesses in seven counties across Southwest Virginia.

 “The lack of broadband infrastructure continues to affect folks in rural Virginia, from business owners to students,” said the Senators. “In our evolving economy, broadband isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. That is why we’re glad to see these federal dollars go toward helping connect nearly 7,000 homes and businesses in Southwest Virginia.”

The funding will be distributed over ten years to support Sunset Digital Communications in providing minimum download speeds of 1 Gbps and minimum upload speeds of 500 Mbps. It will be awarded as listed below:

  • Buchanan County – $3,485,482 to serve 626 locations.
  • Dickenson County –$5,623,553 to serve 1617 locations.
  • Lee County – $3,351,835 to serve 1018 locations.
  • Russell County – $7,258,590 to serve 2556 locations.
  • Tazewell County – $2,900,697 to serve 714 locations.
  • Washington County – $57,143 to serve 9 locations.
  • Wise County – $1,302,153 to serve 404 locations.

The funding will be awarded as part of the Connect America Fund (CAF)’s Phase II – the second phase of an FCC program that seeks to expand access to voice and broadband services. CAF provides funding to providers to subsidize the cost of building new network infrastructure or performing network upgrades to expand voice and broadband service in areas where it is lacking. Across the Commonwealth, the FCC has authorized more than $108.5 million to expand broadband to 39,658 rural homes and businesses. 

Under this subsidy, providers are required to build out to 40 percent of the assigned homes and businesses within three years. Buildout must increase by 20 percent in each subsequent year, until complete buildout is reached at the end of the sixth year of support.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong supporters of expanding broadband access in Virginia as Governors and Senators, and have encouraged President Trump to include broadband as part of any bipartisan infrastructure initiative.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded $4,849,792 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) through its Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative for communities in the Appalachian region of Virginia.

“We’re excited to support these investments to strengthen Virginia’s economy,” the Senators said. “This funding will help promote job growth, allow more people to access job training, and support rural businesses.”

The funding will be awarded as follows:

  • The Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board in Lebanon, VA will receive $1,500,000 for the Recovery Opportunities and Pathways to Employment Success (ROPES) project. The ROPES program combines recovery and treatment from substance abuse with reemployment opportunities and workforce development to create a recovery-to-employment pathway.
  • Appalachian Community Capital (ACC) in Christiansburg, VA will receive $1,039,500 for the Opportunity Appalachia project. ACC has worked with five organizations, including the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, to develop a program that helps bring investment funding to federally designated Opportunity Zones in Central Appalachia. The initiative is estimated to bring in approximately $7.5 million in new investment in Central Appalachian coal communities, and will invest in 15 businesses and create 720 jobs, 70 of which are estimated to be for people recovering from substance abuse.
  • Appalachian Headwaters will receive $622,280 for the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective Diversification and Expansion project. Appalachian Headwaters aims to expand its programs focused on the apiculture (honey and bee products) industry to five counties in the Appalachian region of Virginia and 17 counties in southern West Virginia. The project will develop a training and marketing program for new bee products and services as well as create a new processing and training hub in Southwest Virginia.
  • The BARC Electric Cooperative in Millboro, VA will receive $1,000,000 for the BARC Rural Economic Development via Broadband project. The project will bring broadband access to 8 businesses and 301 households in Goshen.
  • Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) in Cedar Bluff, VA will receive $588,072 for the SWCC Automotive Service Excellence Center. The project will create a fast-track curriculum to prepare students for entry-level automobile technician positions.
  • The LENOWISCO Planning District Commission in Duffield, VA will receive $50,000 for the Technology Innovation Ecosystem for Rural Water Systems project. The project will identify innovative and emerging technologies that can be used to address potential leaks in small, rural public water systems.
  • Appalachian Voices will receive $49,940 for the Taking a Proven Energy Model to Scale project. The project will provide technical assistance to grow the emerging solar energy cluster in Central Appalachia. This funding will support a program in Southwest Virginia that helps building owners who want to use solar energy navigate the process of a commercial-scale solar installation. The program also pools purchasers together to reduce their costs.

The ARC’s POWER Initiative provides grants to communities that have been affected by severe job losses in the coal industry and the changing dynamics of America’s energy production. ARC's mission is to innovate, partner, and invest in the growth of new industries in Appalachia to diversify the region’s economy. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for a fully funded ARC so that it can continue to increase employment and economic opportunities for those living in Appalachia.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $6 million in federal funding to expand broadband access in Southwest Virginia. The investments are expected to expand job and economic opportunities in a region where average household incomes continue to lag behind both the national average and other places in Virginia.

“In the 21st century, high-speed internet access is essential,” said the Senators. “We are pleased to announce this federal investment that will increase opportunities for employment, education and services in Southwest Virginia.”

In Buchanan County, iGo Technology Inc. will receive $3 million to extend broadband access to an additional 820 homes and businesses.

The Scott County Telephone Cooperative will also receive a grant of $3 million to upgrade its current broadband infrastructure in the Dungannon area of Scott County where there is not 10/1 Mbps (10/1) service available. The proposed project upgrade will provide 592 customers more robust broadband infrastructure with greater reliability and higher networking speeds of up to one (1) Gig to each location.

The funds were awarded through the Community Connect Grant Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that helps fund broadband deployment into rural communities where it is not yet economically viable for private sector providers to deliver service. The grants were announced today along with USDA funding for 17 other projects in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Virginia received more federal grant funding to expand rural broadband service than any other state. 

Warner and Kaine have been strong supporters of expanding broadband access in Virginia as Governors and Senators, and have encouraged President Trump to include broadband as part of any bipartisan infrastructure initiative.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that the County of Wise will receive $500,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to install a new sewer system outside Coeburn.

“We are pleased to announce these funds to improve wastewater infrastructure in Wise County,” said the Senators. “The new sewer system will improve health and water quality by reducing runoff and contamination.”

Residents in the Banner community outside of the Town of Coeburn are not served by a public wastewater treatment system. Most residents rely on conventional onsite sewage disposal systems, nearly 80 percent of which have been in operation for more than 30 years, exceeding the typical life cycle of these systems. The new sewer system, which will be installed in two phases, will collect waste and transport it to the Coeburn-Norton-Wise Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant for processing, eliminating the need for residents to maintain costly private septic systems in a community where 65 percent of the population is low- and moderate-income. The project is also expected to improve local ecosystems and water quality and reduce health risks associated with sewage runoff and discharges.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $23,185,283 in federal funding from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to support improvement projects at 11 airports.

“We’re excited to announce that these federal dollars will benefit 11 Virginia airports,” said the Senators. “We look forward to seeing how these grants will help improve safety and increase efficiency at airports all across the Commonwealth.”

  • Washington Dulles International Airport will receive $854,786 to support Voluntary Airport Low Emissions (VALE) infrastructure.
  • Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field will receive $3,513,300 to construct a taxiway, improve a runway safety area, and rehabilitate a runway.
  • Warrenton-Fauquier Airport will receive $150,000 to rehabilitate a taxiway and rehabilitate a runway.
  • Leesburg Executive Airport will receive $205,000 to construct an apron.
  • Richmond International Airport will receive $8,733,800 to construct a taxiway.
  • Lynchburg Regional Airport/Preston Glenn Field will receive $305,148 to rehabilitate and construct aprons, and rehabilitate a taxiway.
  • Norfolk International Airport will receive $3,591,524 to acquire land for approaches, install airfield guidance signs, rehabilitate taxiway lighting, rehabilitate a taxiway and acquire friction-measuring equipment.
  • Franklin Municipal-John Beverly Rose Airport will receive $90,000 to conduct a study.
  • Virginia Highlands Airport will receive $4,150,000 to extend a runway.
  • Luray Caverns Airport will receive $1,291,725 to construct an apron.
  • Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport will receive $300,000 to construct a taxiway and acquire safety and/or security equipment.

The funding was awarded through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which supports infrastructure improvement projects at airports across the nation. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for greater infrastructure investments, including for Virginia’s airports. They have pushed back against the Trump Administration’s suggested budget cuts to DOT to help ensure that critical upgrades like these can happen. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced a bill to strengthen our nation’s infrastructure, create jobs, and generate economic stimulus.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded $284,142 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to boost innovation and skills training in the Town of Pulaski, and to provide direct technical assistance for initiatives that help develop local economies and infrastructures in Virginia’s 25 Appalachian counties and eight Appalachian cities

“As our economy continues to evolve, we need to make sure that we’re investing in workers across Appalachia and making sure they’re equipped with the skills they need to succeed in new industries,” said the Senators. “We are glad to know that these grants will help set the groundwork for important skills training and economic development in the region.”

  • The Town of Pulaski will receive $44,142 for a project that will help create a plan for a training center and makerspace. The center will seek to increase the number of workers trained in skills needed in the region and provide a location for innovators and entrepreneurs to work. The plan will also assess the potential for programming to include individuals not traditionally able or inclined to seek training such as those pursuing second careers, post-incarceration, or post-addiction.
  • The Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development will receive $240,000 to assist in the administration of the Virginia ARC program, which helps promote long- and short-term economic development, infrastructure development, skills training, telecommunications, local capacity building, entrepreneurial assistance, education, and health care in the Commonwealth’s 25 Appalachian counties and eight Appalachian cities. The funding will support direct technical assistance for initiatives in ARC communities, as well as the salaries and benefits for nine staffers.  

The funding was awarded through ARC, an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties in the Appalachian region. ARC's mission is to innovate, partner, and invest in the growth of new industries in Appalachia to diversify the region’s economy. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for a fully funded ARC so that it can continue to increase employment and economic opportunities for those living in Appalachia.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bob Casey (D-PA) wrote to House and Senate leadership advocating for the inclusion of a permanent fix for miners’ health care and pensions in the short-term spending package that is currently being negotiated to keep the government open after September 30th, 2019.

“In July, we were alarmed to learn that 1,200 retired coal miners, their widows and their dependents would lose their health care benefits at the end of the calendar year. If we don’t take action now, these families in Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Alabama, Colorado, North Dakota and New Mexico will begin receiving health care termination notices at the end of October. Without congressional action to keep this from happening, they will spend their holiday season worrying about whether or not they will have to choose between their life-saving medications and putting food on the table,” wrote the Senators.

Currently, the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan is on the road to insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis. Earlier this year, Sens. Warner and Kaine introduced the American Miners Act of 2019 to shore up the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan to make sure that 87,000 current beneficiaries and an additional 20,000 retirees won’t lose the pensions they have paid into for decades. In Virginia alone, there are approximately 7,000 retirees who are at risk of losing their benefits if Congress does not act. Additionally, the legislation would protect the 500 Virginians affected by the Westmoreland bankruptcy that has endangered health care benefits for additional miners and dependents.

In their letter, the Senators also request that congressional leadership extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund that finances medical treatment and basic expenses for miners suffering from black lung disease. 

“We are proud to cosponsor the American Miners Act (S. 27) which would protect and preserve not only these healthcare and pension benefits in perpetuity, but restore the Black Lung Trust Fund contribution rate to a much more sustainable level. During Senate consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the entire Democratic caucus cosponsored this bill. Unfortunately, we were blocked from even having a vote on that amendment,” continued the Senators.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have continued to advocate on behalf of Virginia’s coal miners and their families. In August 2018, they introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners. The Senators also introduced legislation to make it easier for miners to access federal black lung benefits, make the benefit claims process fairer, and strengthen the benefits miners receive.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, and Leader Schumer:

As negotiations continue around a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on October 1st, 2019, we urge you to honor the promises made to America’s coal miners and include permanent protections for the retiree health care and pension benefits they earned through a lifetime of hard work as well as an extension of the coal excise tax contribution rate that expired at the end of last year, threatening the solvency of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.

In July, we were alarmed to learn that 1,200 retired coal miners, their widows and their dependents would lose their health care benefits at the end of the calendar year. If we don’t take action now, these families in Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Alabama, Colorado, North Dakota and New Mexico will begin receiving health care termination notices at the end of October. Without congressional action to keep this from happening, they will spend their holiday season worrying about whether or not they will have to choose between their life-saving medications and putting food on the table. After all they have done for our country, the least we could do is keep our end of the bargain, honor the commitments that were made, and show them that we are thankful for the sacrifices they have made for our country.

In 1946, President Harry Truman ordered Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug to broker a deal to end a nationwide strike of coal miners. The subsequent agreement with the United Mine Workers of America guaranteed healthcare and pension benefits for coal miners with the full faith and credit of the United States Government. Unfortunately, due to numerous coal company bankruptcies and fundamentally flawed bankruptcy laws that allow corporations to shed their responsibilities to their workers, these very same federally guaranteed benefits are in jeopardy today.

We are proud to cosponsor the American Miners Act (S. 27) which would protect and preserve not only these healthcare and pension benefits in perpetuity, but restore the Black Lung Trust Fund contribution rate to a much more sustainable level. During Senate consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the entire Democratic caucus cosponsored this bill. Unfortunately, we were blocked from even having a vote on that amendment. 

We commend Speaker Pelosi and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) for advancing legislation to secure health care and pension benefits for our nation’s miners. On July 24th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act of 2019 (H.R. 397) with bipartisan support. Congress must act to ensure millions of Americans in multiemployer pension plans do not see cuts to the pension benefits they have worked hard to earn. We must pass legislation to comprehensively address both the insolvency of troubled plans and of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Also on July 24th, the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing on H.R. 934 and H.R. 935, bills that would permanently secure miners health care and pension benefits. The full committee is poised to vote on those bipartisan proposals this month.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the U.S. Senate has not taken up any relevant legislation either in committee or on the floor all year. Because this is literally a life and death issue for thousands of families across this country, we urge you to include a permanent solution for miners healthcare and pension benefits in the short-term funding package that will ensure the continued operation of the U.S. government beyond September 30th, 2019, and we stand ready to work together in a bipartisan way to keep our promises to these great American families.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,455,722.85 in federal funding for the Lexington, Manassas, Bristol, and Portsmouth Fire Departments. The funding will be awarded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program.

“It’s crucial for firefighters to have the tools necessary to best serve their communities,” the Senators said. “We’re pleased to announce this funding to help local fire departments across Virginia purchase equipment to enhance public safety.”

The following Virginia fire departments will receive funding under the AFG program:

  • The City of Lexington Fire Department will receive $88,460.95 to purchase equipment.
  • The City of Manassas Fire Department will receive $332,500 to purchase personal protective equipment.
  • The City of Bristol Fire Department will receive $404,761.90 to purchase communications equipment.
  • The City of Portsmouth Fire Department will receive $630,000 to purchase equipment.

FEMA’s AFG program works to strengthen the safety of the public and firefighters by providing direct financial assistance to eligible fire departments, nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations, and State Fire Training Academies for critically-needed resources.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $125,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update outdated equipment at police and fire departments in Augusta County, Halifax County, and the town of Glade Spring. The funding will help improve emergency response times and public safety in these communities.

“The men and women serving our communities need functional, up-to-date equipment that allows them to effectively do their jobs,” said the Senators. “We’re pleased that this funding will help enhance public safety in the Commonwealth.”

The following localities will receive funding:

  • In Augusta County, $50,000 will go towards the purchase of updated equipment for the Churchville Volunteer Fire Department.
  • In Halifax County, $50,000 will go towards the purchase of four new sheriff’s vehicles to replace outdated vehicles that pose a safety hazard to employees and, as a result of unreliable emergency response times, to the general public.
  • In Glade Springs, $25,000 will go towards the purchase of a 2019 Dodge Durango police vehicle. The purchase will allow the town to replace an older vehicle that poses a safety hazard to employees and, as a result of unreliable emergency response times, to the general public.

The funding comes from USDA’s Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grants program, which seeks to develop key community facilities that provide essential services to the public in rural areas.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following recent studies showing worsening prevalence and severity of black lung disease among coal miners and deteriorating financial viability of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine met today with 25 coal miners and their families from Southwest Virginia. They discussed the need for fast action in funding the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which was established in 1978 to pay benefits to disabled miners suffering from black lung disease when the coal companies responsible for paying benefits are bankrupt, closed, or otherwise not able to pay. The miners who met with Warner and Kaine today are from Big Stone Gap, Clintwood, Norton, Wise, Coeburn, Duffield, St. Paul, Haysi, Moneta, Oakwood, Gate City, and Pilgrims Knob. 

View photos of the meetings here. Video of Sen. Warner’s meeting is here

Black lung has led to devastating health consequences for too many hardworking miners and we need to help ensure those who are suffering from this disease can get much needed treatment. Hearing directly from Virginia miners today about the obstacles they face in accessing health care re-energized us to do everything we can to tackle these challenges. Coal miners have worked tirelessly to help power this nation and we owe it to them to act,” said the Senators.

The Senators also announced that they will join Senator Bob Casey to introduce the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act, legislation to make it easier for miners to access federal black lung benefits, make the benefit claims process fairer, and strengthen the benefits miners receive.

Later in the day, Kaine participated in a roundtable discussion led by Senator Casey with Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), a medical expert, and affected miners and family members in front of over one hundred miners affected by black lung disease – including the 25 Virginians. Watch Kaine’s remarks at the roundtable here

Senators Warner and Kaine are strong advocates for coal miners and their families. In August 2018, they introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners. Last week, following the announcement that 1,200 retired coal miners – including up to 800 Virginians – are at risk of losing their health care by the end of the year, Warner and Kaine pushed for passage of the American Miners Act of 2019. The legislation, sponsored by Warner and Kaine, would secure pensions and health care benefits for retired coal miners – including hundreds of Virginians. It would also extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund tax at $1.10 per ton of underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton of surface-mined coal for ten years.

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WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $40,942,352 in federal funding to support affordable housing development across Virginia. The funding was awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block, Emergency Solutions, HOME, HOPWA, and Housing Trust Fund grant programs.

“Virginia families deserve access to safe and affordable housing,” the Senators said. “We are pleased that this federal funding will provide people across the Commonwealth with opportunities to improve their living conditions.”

The funding will be awarded as shown below:

The Community Development Block (CDBG) Grants program provides annual grants to state and local governments to develop communities by expanding economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income Americans and providing decent housing and a suitable living environment. The following will receive CDBG funding:

Recipient                              Amount

ALEXANDRIA                     $ 1,027,042

ARLINGTON COUNTY     $ 1,345,258

BRISTOL                               $ 257,838

PETERSBURG                      $ 617,397

VIRGINIA                             $ 18,152,427

The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program provides annual grants to state, local, and private entities to help people regain stability in permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis and/or homelessness.  The ESG program also provides funding for improving both the quality and number of emergency homeless shelters. The following will receive ESG funding:

Recipient                              Amount

VIRGINIA                             $ 2,885,391

The HOME program works to expand the supply of decent, affordable housing to low-income families by providing grants to state and local governments to support housing programs that meet local needs and priorities. The following will receive HOME funding:

Recipient                              Amount

ALEXANDRIA                     $ 535,017

VIRGINIA                             $ 9,890,363

ARLINGTON COUNTY     $ 712,272

The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program provides housing assistance and related supportive services to state and local governments, and non-profit organizations for projects that benefit low-income Americans medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and their families. The following will receive HOPWA funding:

Recipient                              Amount

VIRGINIA                             $ 1,087,223

The Housing Trust Fund (HTF) is an affordable housing program that complements existing efforts to increase and preserve the supply of decent, safe, and sanitary affordable housing for low-income households, including homeless families. The following will receive HTF funding:

Recipient                              Amount

VIRGINIA                             $ 4,432,124

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today requested additional funding for vital improvements to Interstate 81 (I-81) that would enhance safety and reduce traffic congestion.

In a pair of letters to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Senators emphasized I-81’s crucial role in commerce along the East Coast and stressed the need for federal dollars to tackle necessary repairs to the highway. The Senators also encouraged DOT to approve an application from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for federal grant funding to improve I-81, reduce congestion, and address safety problems along the route.

“While improvements have been made in past years to keep up with the growth, I-81 continues to experience heavy congestion and dangerous conditions, which have degraded the corridor,” the Senators wrote in the letter of support to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao. “The proposal put forth by VDOT will undoubtedly transform and improve the lives of many Virginians who travel the interstate every day. Furthermore, upgrades and repairs will improve the safety of those traveling through the Commonwealth.”

The Senators also encouraged the leaders of the EPW Committee to include robust funding for high-priority interstate improvement projects such as I-81 in the next surface transportation bill.

“As you continue to draft the surface transportation reauthorization bill, we urge you to include as much funding as possible for major, high priority interstate improvements projects such as I-81 in Virginia,” the Senators wrote to the Environment and Public Works Committee. “Robust funding through formula programs, as well as additional competitive grant programs like BUILD and INFRA, will be necessary to achieve funding goals for this, and other major projects that involve improvements to hundreds of miles of major interstate arteries.”

More than one-third of all trucks that drive through Virginia and approximately half of the Commonwealth’s value of goods are transported along I-81. In the last decade, I-81 has experienced significant traffic growth, with travel expected to continue increasing along the interstate. Increased I-81 traffic causes severe travel delays and puts travelers at risk, including the drivers involved in the more than 2,000 crashes that happen annually along the route.

A recent study by VDOT that found an unmet need of about $4 billion in improvements along the interstate – only half of which is expected to be covered by the increased truck registration fees and gas tax increases approved by the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been longtime advocates of robust financing for the Commonwealth’s infrastructure. In May, the Senators introduced legislation to provide critical safety reforms and strengthen oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Additionally, earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure, create jobs, and generate economic stimulus.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) met in Sen. Kaine’s office in Washington, D.C. with a delegation representing Lee County Hospital. The meeting included representatives from the Lee County Hospital Authority, the Virginia Department of Health, and Ballad Health, who spoke with the members of Congress about next steps in the process of reopening the Lee County Hospital.

“Folks in Lee County and in rural communities across Virginia deserve to have access to the health care services they need,” said the members of Congress. “Rural hospitals face unique challenges, but in our meeting, the delegation from Lee County laid out a plan for how we can get this done. We are cautiously optimistic that this six-year effort is reaching the finish line and we plan to do everything in our power at the federal level to get the Lee County Hospital reopened next year.”

In 2013, the Lee County hospital – then known as the Lee County Regional Medical Center – closed abruptly, leaving the county without access to a nearby hospital. This closure hurt economic development in the area and affected public safety, as patients were forced to wait longer for medical care, and community sheriffs and fire squads spent valuable time escorting individuals across county and state lines to other hospitals.

In February of 2019, Lee County Hospital Authority chose Ballad Health as a partner and announced its intent to reopen the hospital, which will focus on treating chronic problems as well as providing much-needed emergency medical care and other typical hospital services. It will also provide a line of ancillary services to meet various community needs.

Last July, Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with Rep. Griffith, met with the Lee County Hospital Authority and key stakeholders to facilitate the reopening of the hospital. Additionally, earlier this year, Sens. Warner and Kaine introduced legislation that would benefit hospitals in medically underserved areas like Lee County, where patients are more likely to be uninsured and hospitals have struggled to stay afloat financially. The States Achieve Medicaid Expansion (SAME) Act of 2019 would allow states that expanded Medicaid after 2014 to receive the same level of federal matching funds as states that expanded earlier, and according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, it would save Virginia’s hospitals an estimated $300 million per year in the first three years of implementation.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement regarding the Trump Administration’s decision to scrap plans to transfer Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the Department of Labor (DOL) and close nine Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers – including the Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Coeburn, a top performing center: 

“Job training facilities like Flatwoods are critical to prepare Virginians for success in our economy. It’s welcome news that following our bipartisan calls for the Trump Administration to reverse course on their misguided proposal, they listened and will keep the Flatwoods facility open. We are thrilled that Flatwoods will be able to keep expanding economic opportunities in Southwest Virginia.”

Following the initial USDA and DOL announcement that the Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Coeburn and eight other Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers were scheduled to close as part of the program’s transfer from USDA to DOL, Senators Warner and Kaine introduced legislation to prevent the Trump Administration from closing these facilities. The bipartisan Job Corps Protection Act would block the Administration from using federal government funds in 2019 or 2020 to close any Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers in the United States. The Senators also joined Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) in writing a letter urging DOL and USDA to reconsider the closure of these facilities. Separately, Warner and Kaine joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of 18 Senators and 33 Representatives in pushing USDA and DOL to reverse their decision to end the Civilian Conservation Center program in its current form and shutter nine facilities across the nation.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with Southwest Virginia coal miners from the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) at his office in Washington, D.C. During the meeting, Sen. Warner stressed the need to pass the American Miners Act, legislation he sponsored that would permanently protect the healthcare and pension benefits for thousands of Virginia’s retired coal miners and their families.

The bill will also protect healthcare coverage for 500 Virginia miners who are at risk of losing their benefits due to the 2018 bankruptcy of Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Co., which previously operated in Wise County, VA. During the meeting, miners and union representatives told Sen. Warner that Westmoreland miner benefits are currently expected to run out no later than October.

The Westmoreland miners’ healthcare benefits are about to run out, and that’s a crisis for these miners and their families,” said Sen. Warner. “Southwest Virginia’s retired coal miners worked hard to power this country, and the least we can do is make sure they’re able to retire with the pensions and benefits they earned. The American Miners Actwould protect the hard-earned benefits these miners and their families count on, while also making sure we’ve got the resources necessary to address the black lung outbreak in coal country.”

“For some of the miners in my local, people are going to start falling beneath the poverty line if Congress doesn’t do something,” said Gary Kennedy, a retired UMWA mine worker from Appalachia, VA who worked in Westmoreland’s Bullitt Mine. “For some people, it’s going to mean the difference between ‘Do you eat three times a day?’ or ‘do you eat twice?’ ‘Do you pay the power bill?’ ‘or ‘do you buy prescriptions?’ That’s what it’s going to mean.”

Currently, the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan is on the road to insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis. The American Miners Act of 2019 will shore up the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan to make sure that 87,000 current beneficiaries and an additional 20,000 retirees who have vested won’t lose the pensions they have paid into for decades. In Virginia alone, there are approximately 7,000 pensioners who are at risk of losing their benefits if Congress does not act.

In May 2017, Sen. Warner worked with several colleagues to pass bipartisan legislation to protect healthcare for retired miners – including more than 10,000 miners and their families in Virginia – who were orphaned by coal bankruptcies. But the recent Westmoreland bankruptcy has endangered health care benefits for additional miners and dependents – including 500 people in Virginia. This legislation will extend the fix to ensure that miners who are at risk due to 2018 coal company bankruptcies will not lose their healthcare.

Lastly, the bill also calls for an extension of the tax that finances medical treatment and basic expenses for miners suffering from black lung. The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was established in 1978 to pay benefits to disabled miners suffering from black lung disease when the coal company responsible for paying benefits is bankrupt, closed or otherwise not able to pay. More than 25,000 coal miners and their dependents rely on the fund. The fund, which due to a variety of factors is currently more than $4 billion in debt, is supported by an excise tax that was cut in half at the end of 2018. The American Miners Act of 2019 will extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund tax at $1.10 per ton of underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton of surface-mined coal for ten years. You can read his Bristol Herald Courier op-ed on the legislation here.

Sen. Warner is a strong advocate for coal miners and their families. In August 2018, he introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners. 

The American Miners Act of 2019 is also sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Doug Jones (D-AL) and Bob Casey (D-PA). For more information on the American Miners Act of 2019, click here.

  

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded an announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the City of Charlottesville and the Town of Pulaski will receive federal assistance to support revitalization strategies that improve quality of life and help develop each community’s local food economy. This assistance comes from Local Foods, Local Places (LFLP) – a federal initiative designed to support communities seeking to improve access to nutritious foods, boost economic opportunities for local farmers and businesses, preserve open space and farmland, protect air and water quality, and promote childhood wellness. 

“With an estimated 1 million Virginians living in food deserts, we are thrilled to know that Charlottesville and Pulaski will be receiving federal help to develop plans that increase food access for families,” said the Senators. “We look forward to seeing these communities continue to build healthier, stronger neighborhoods.”

Charlottesville and Pulaski were two of 15 communities selected nationwide out of a pool of more than 70 applications. In Charlottesville, the Charlottesville Food Justice Network plans to develop an integrated strategy to use affordable food markets and urban agriculture to advance food equity in low-income neighborhoods. Additionally, the Town of Pulaski plans to use this assistance to explore the effects of increased food access and healthy living programs on ongoing downtown revitalizations. 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long stressed the importance of providing better resources to low-income, rural and urban communities who have limited or no access to nutritious foods. In March, Sen. Warner introduced the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act (HFAAA) – legislation to incentivize food service providers like grocers, retailers, and nonprofits to expand access to nutritious foods in underserved communities. Additionally, earlier this year Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with a group of 45 other Senators urged the Trump administration to rescind a proposed rule that would take away nutrition benefits from Americans struggling to find stable employment. Last month, Sen. Kaine visited Pulaski to hear about ongoing economic revitalization.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to introduce the Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More (RECLAIM) Act of 2019 to provide opportunities for coal reclamation and economic development in communities impacted by the downturn in the coal industry.

“As technologies evolve and our economy changes, we cannot forget about the coal mining communities that for years fueled our nation. The RECLAIM Act reiterates our economic commitment to these mining communities by fast-tracking the release of $1 billion from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund and using it to fund projects that reinvigorate communities, promote economic growth and counteract the environmental effects of coal mining locally,” said Warner

"Mine reclamation supports hundreds of jobs in Virginia each year, strengthens our economy, and helps clean up the environment,” said Kaine. “This bill would let money already sitting in the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund be used to boost economic development in coal communities.”

The RECLAIM Act of 2019 releases $1 billion from the remaining, unappropriated balance in the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund to states to be spent on reclamation projects in communities impacted by abandoned mine lands (AML) and the recent decrease in coal mining production. The RECLAIM Act will also require states to carry out reclamation projects that will create favorable conditions for economic development.

These projects must be conducted in areas that have been adversely affected by a reduction in coal mining related activity and/or in communities that have traditionally relied on coal mining for a substantial portion of their economy.  Under the RECLAIM Act, $195 million will be distributed to uncertified states and tribes with approved AML programs each year from Fiscal Year 2020 to 2024. 

Virginia has over 71,000 acres of land that has been impacted by coal mining. It is estimated that it would take approximately 55 years at the current rate of funding and reclamation construction to reclaim Abandoned Mine Land sites in the Commonwealth. The estimated price tag for reclamation is over $313 million. The RECLAIM Act would provide additional funding to the Virginia Abandoned Mine Land program and help speed up reclamation efforts in Southwest Virginia.

To learn more about the RECLAIM Act click here and to read the full bill text click here.

 

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with miners from the United Mine Workers of America at his office in Washington, D.C.

In the meeting, Sen. Warner stressed the need to pass the American Miners Act, legislation he sponsored that would permanently protect the healthcare and pension benefits for thousands of Virginia’s retired coal miners and their families. The bill will also protect healthcare coverage for 500 Virginia miners who are at risk of losing their benefits due to the 2018 bankruptcy of Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Co, which previously operated in Wise County, VA.

“Southwest Virginia’s retired miners worked hard their entire careers to power this country, and the least we can do is make sure they’re able to retire with the pensions and benefits they earned,” said Sen. Warner. “Frankly, this is a crisis for the 500 Virginians who stand to lose their benefits in the near future. The American Miners Act would protect the hard-earned benefits these families and thousands more across the Commonwealth count on, while also taking needed action to address the black lung outbreak facing coal country.” 

Currently, the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan is on the road to insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis. The American Miners Act of 2019 will shore up the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan to make sure that 87,000 current beneficiaries and an additional 20,000 retirees who have vested won’t lose the pensions they have paid into for decades. In Virginia alone, there are approximately 7,000 pensioners who are at risk of losing their benefits if Congress does not act. 

In May 2017, Sen. Warner worked with several colleagues to pass bipartisan legislation to protect healthcare for retired miners – including more than 10,000 miners and their families in Virginia – who were orphaned by coal bankruptcies. But the recent Westmoreland bankruptcy has endangered health care benefits for additional miners and dependents – including 500 people in Virginia. This legislation will extend the fix to ensure that miners who are at risk due to 2018 coal company bankruptcies will not lose their healthcare. 

Lastly, the bill also calls for an extension of the tax that finances medical treatment and basic expenses for miners suffering from black lung. The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was established in 1978 to pay benefits to disabled miners suffering from black lung disease when the coal company responsible for paying benefits is bankrupt, closed or otherwise not able to pay. More than 25,000 coal miners and their dependents rely on the fund. The fund, which due to a variety of factors is currently more than $4 billion in debt, is supported by an excise tax that was cut in half at the end of 2018. The American Miners Act of 2019 will extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund tax at $1.10 per ton of underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton of surface-mined coal for ten years.

Sen. Warner is a strong advocate for coal miners and their families. In August 2018, he introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners. 

The American Miners Act of 2019 is also sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Doug Jones (D-AL) and Bob Casey (D-PA). For more information on the American Miners Act of 2019, click here.

  

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for awarding $2,296,533 in federal funding to communities in Southwest Virginia through its Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) program. 

“We are thrilled to support this economic investment in Southwest Virginia,” the Senators said. “This funding aims to stimulate the local economy by promoting job growth, increasing access to capital, and supporting local businesses.” 

The funding will be awarded as follows: 

  • Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) in Abingdon, VA will receive $1,250,000 to enhance a multi-state food network across Appalachia through mediation between private industry and small-scale farmers, fostering aggregation and distribution opportunities. It will increase the region’s produce supply, attracting more regional and national buyers to purchase local produce. It is anticipated that the project will improve 238 businesses, create 38 new businesses and 85 jobs, and leverage $732,666 of private investment.
  • People Incorporated Financial Services (PIFS) in Abingdon, VA will receive $486,769 for the New Market Tax Credit Project – Growth in Appalachia. This funding will allow PIFS to focus on providing technical assistance and advisory services to start-up and emerging businesses, local government and community based organizations. PIFS anticipates this will create a minimum of 50 jobs and leverage $10 million in new capital into local communities.
  • Bland County will receive $459,764 for the Bland County Broadband Deployment Project to construct a 33 mile fiber run that will be used to supply broadband to 37 businesses, Bland County Schools, the Board of Education Offices and the Bland County Health Clinic.
  • Friends of Southwest Virginia in Abingdon, VA will receive $100,000 for a multi-state plan that would develop common natural and cultural assets that can boost regional economic diversification. This process will bridge communities in Southwest Virginia with their neighbors in North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky, to create a community-driven identification and planning process.

The ARC’s POWER Initiative provides grants to communities that have been affected by severe job losses in the coal industry and the changing dynamics of America’s energy production. ARC's mission is to innovate, partner, and invest in the growth of new industries in Appalachia to diversify the region’s economy. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for a fully funded ARC so that it can continue to increase employment and economic opportunities for those living in Appalachia. 

 

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