With an hour to spare before a government shutdown, the U.S. Senate approved a stopgap spending bill late Friday that allows coal workers to keep their health coverage until April.
Coverage for about 16,000 employees of now-bankrupt coal companies was set to run out at the end of the year. Coal state Democrats held up a vote on the bill because they wanted a longer benefits extension.
For Phil Smith, director of government affairs for United Mine Workers of America, the four-month extension is “no better than nothing:”
“Look, these are folks who need their health care benefits, not just a month from now or four months from now, they need them a year from now,” Smith. “And we have no guarantee from the government that if we accept this four month proposal, that there’s going to be anything coming next.”
Many of the mine workers who were about to lose their benefits are former employees of St. Louis-based Peabody Coal Company. (Several thousand others will lose their coverage at a later date). A pension fund also is expected to become insolvent by 2022, according to the union.
Read more: St. Louis Public Radio