Federal funds for black lung benefits in West Virginia were cut about 44 percent. The United States Department of Health and Human Services Black Lung Clinic program now limits awards to $900,000 per grantee.
Last year the funds helped nearly 8,500 West Virginians suffering from Black Lung disease find critical services at eight clinics across the state, totaling more than 52,000 documented visits. The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health has been a recipient of the Black Lung Clinic Grant program since 1979 and has provided oversight and technical assistance for Black Lung clinics statewide. Last year, 14 states received funding. Thirteen states received less than $900,000 and West Virginia was awarded $1.4 million. According to a release, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin sent a letter to U.S. DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding this change. In the letter, Tomblin asks the Secretary reconsider or "allow for supplemental request to maintain the standards of care and service" in the state's black lung clinics. Congressman Nick Rahall also responded to the announcement. In a statement Rahall says he's working with Rockefeller and Manchin to address the problem.