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Senate approves spending bill with miners’ pensions and other West Virginia priorities

MORGANTOWN — The U.S. Senate approved one of two spending packages on Thursday and sent it to the president. The package includes funding for coal miners’ healthcare and pensions, along with money for other West Virginia priorities, said Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, both Appropriations Committee members.

“The funding secured for West Virginia in the Appropriations package makes me proud of the work we have accomplished in the Senate this year,” Manchin said in his release. “We have secured $3.8 billion to combat the opioid epidemic, $555 million to expand broadband in rural areas like West Virginia, $181.5 million to address youth homelessness, and I am so proud to say that we secured pensions for 92,000 coal miners and healthcare for 13,000 coal miners and their families in this package.”

Capito said: “I’m encouraged that the Senate was able to work together in a bipartisan way to pass these important appropriations bill. This is what we were sent to Congress to do. I am particularly proud of the fact that legislation I introduced to secure our coal miners’ pensions was part of this package. I’ve been proud to fight alongside our coal miners — as well as Leader McConnell, Sen. Manchin, Congressman McKinley, and the UMWA — every step of the way to make sure we enact a solution that keeps the promise to these hardworking men and women.

“It’s because of the dedication and heart these miners displayed throughout the entire process that we were able to get this done. I thank them for their hope, their patience, and their tireless efforts to fight this until the very end.

“I am also proud to say that this legislation supports many of the priorities I have adopted from my first day in the Senate. In these bills, we provide resources to improve broadband access, expand research for Alzheimer’s and childhood cancer, fund food and nutrition programs like SNAP, invest in our infrastructure, provide resources to assist states addressing PFAS contamination and remediation, and support our veterans. This legislation also extends the Secure Rural Schools program for two years, providing vital education resources for school systems in West Virginia counties with national forest land.”

Here are selected highlights, culled from their releases:

Opioids, $5.7 billion, including $518 million through the Department of Justice, $402 million through the VA, and $25 million at HUD. Includes language Capito authored in FY18 that sets aside funds for states with the highest mortality rates per capita rather than population-based distribution. Also, new flexibility is provided to enable states’ use of funding for the rise of other stimulants.

Clean drinking water, $2.8 billion toward water infrastructure, and $43 million directed toward remediation of PFAS chemicals, which have impacted several cities in West Virginia.

Rural broadband, $570M, for the USDA for the ReConnect program, as well as $5 million in new broadband funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission for distressed counties in north and north-central Appalachia, making 10 more counties eligible for ARC broadband funding in addition to 7 counties in southern West Virginia previously eligible for funding for Central Appalachia. Also, $50 million for Distance Learning and Telemedicine and $35 million for Community Connect grants.

NETL, $161 miilion; includes $61 million for Coal R&D, $50 million for infrastructure, and $23 million for the Rare Earth Element (REE) program. It also prioritizes the construction of a supercomputer located in Morgantown.

Appalachian Storage Hub, $33 million, to encourage DOE to study the economic and national security benefits of natural gas liquids storage; includes funding for the Title XVII Innovative Technologies Loan Program.

Camp Dawson, $3million; reversed a House rescission cut to a Navy program that would have prevented these funds from setting up the W.Va. National Guard’s new Cyber Testing & Training Environment.

 $100 million for the Appalachian Development Highway System. $15.7 million will be carved out for West Virginia.

$50 million for West Virginia bridges.