WASHINGTON, DC –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today went to the Senate floor to ask his colleagues to unanimously pass an extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and the Health Care Tax Credit (HCTC). TAA is a package of training and reemployment services designed to help workers—who have lost their jobs as a result of foreign trade—develop the skills they need to find new jobs. The HCTC helps trade-affected workers afford private health insurance.
“Since 2009, more than 170,000 additional trade-impacted workers became eligible for training under the TAA for Workers program. But since we let this program expire last week, we shut out service and manufacturing workers who lose their jobs to countries other than those with which we have free trade agreements. In addition, the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) program expired. This beneficial program helps tens of thousands of displaced workers who lose their employer-sponsored health coverage replace that private coverage rather than becoming uninsured or going on Medicaid. If we do not act, we’re simply giving these workers the cold shoulder. In essence, the Senate sends a message that it couldn’t care less whether these workers have health insurance or the training needed for new jobs. These are Americans who lost their job, their pension, their health care—maybe all three—when the company they worked for moved operations overseas or shed their employee benefits obligations during bankruptcy proceedings.”
“Opponents of this measure claim it will bust the budget. But we give billion of dollars worth of tax breaks to companies that send jobs overseas – which based on our deficit, we can’t afford. TAA, in contrast, is a modest program that has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support and has long been a core pillar of U.S. trade policy. It helps American workers who have lost their jobs as the result of globalization get back on their feet. In that way, it serves the best interests of our nation,” Brown continued.”
According to the Department of Labor, an estimated 32,389 Ohio workers have been certified for TAA assistance since May 2009—second only to Michigan. Of those workers, an estimated 7,119 workers would not have qualified for TAA under a pre-Recovery Act version of TAA. The pre-Recovery Act version of TAA did not cover service workers or workers who lost jobs due to trade with countries with which the United States does not have a free trade agreement, including China.
Last week, Brown led three separate attempts to pass an extension of TAA and the HCTC before the expiration, but each attempt was blocked by Republican Senator John Barrasso (R-WY.) Earlier this month, Brown led a group of 14 senators on a letter to members of House leadership, including House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, urging them to pass an extension of TAA in the House. As one of the last acts before 111th Congress adjourned, Brown secured a six-week extension of the TAA program, including an extension of the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC), a program that helps trade-affected and other dislocated workers afford private health insurance. Brown fought to extend the program for 18 months, but the Senate only cleared a six-week extension, leaving it up to the new Congress to reconsider the issue.