WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins (R- W.Va.) is among three Congressmen who have taken the lead on a bipartisan bill aimed at providing expanded retaining opportunities for coal miners who have become dislocated.
“We are working on a multi-pronged effort to get people working again in West Virginia,” Jenkins told The West Virginia Record. “This is about jobs.”
"The Assisting America’s Dislocated Miners Act, H.R. 663, would establish a Dislocated Miners Assistance Program at the U.S. Labor Department to identify dislocated miners, assess their skills and training, identify job training programs and provide grants to job training providers," according to a news release.
“(This is) a bipartisan effort to take those existing best practices and really ramp them up, because the need is so great,” Jenkins said.
The bill also calls for funding of $20 million per year for five years to fund the Dislocated Miners Assistance Program.
In addition to Jenkins, the bill is cosponsored by Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).
“We are all in agreement with the focus on helping the individual,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said he spent his first two years in Congress familiarizing himself with available programs. Now, he said there is an effort to get regulatory structure back following the legacy of the Obama administration in order to get coal mines open again.
However, he said some miners who are out of work are seeking alternative opportunities and need training.
“(The bill focuses on) an area a miner has said he has an interest in pursuing, but needs a little more help,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said in the release that, through the act, “we can get them back to work in good-paying jobs while also revitalizing our coal communities.”
“While we fight to restore coal jobs in West Virginia and Appalachia, we must also provide for the miners who are out of work and for their families,” Jenkins said. “My legislation will give West Virginia’s coal families hope and the promise of a paycheck, not an unemployment check.”
Jenkins said in the release that the bill supports his belief that the federal government should help Americans who are affected by major shifts in the economy.
Ryan and Welch echoed those sentiments in the release.
“As our energy sector evolves, it is our responsibility, not our choice, to make sure that miners in Ohio and across the country who have worked so hard are not left behind,” Ryan said. “The investment in training, education and recruitment that this legislation provides for is critical to doing just that. I am proud to support it.”
United Mine Workers of America Career Centers Executive Director Clemmy Allen said in the release that the bill will provide needed aid for the state's dislocated mine workers.
“At the United Mine Workers of America Career Centers, we are dedicated to helping displaced coal miners learn new skills and find new jobs to support their families,” he said. “The Assisting America’s Dislocated Coal Miners Act will provide us with steady funding and the certainty needed to offer training to any miner in need.”