WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today introduced legislation to extend a critical lifeline for workers who lose their jobs due to foreign trade. Brown’s bill would reauthorize the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and expand its training and reemployment services to 2009 levels. Brown released a map of Ohio companies affected by foreign trade whose workers were certified for TAA benefits to help train for new jobs. In the past five years, more than 22,400 Ohio workers received assistance through the TAA program. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), approximately two million workers nationwide have relied on TAA since 1975 to make ends meet and receive training necessary to find a new job.
“While some are talking about eliminating barriers for big corporations through more NAFTA-style trade deals, they’re willing to create barriers for unemployed workers by allowing TAA to expire,” Brown said. “Trade Adjustment Assistance is a critical part of our nation’s competitiveness strategy. This jobs training program ensures that workers have the tools they need to succeed in the high-growth, high-skill industries that are hiring. This bill would provide long-term certainty to support and advance our workforce while encouraging growth.”
Authorization for TAA will expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts. Trade Adjustment Assistance Act of 2014 provides long-term authorization while expanding eligibility for workers. Specifically, the bill would:
- Extend the TAA program through the end of 2020 to streamline implementation and ensure certainty to workers seeking job training.
- Restore eligibility to levels included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to include service sector and public sector workers who lost their jobs due to trade. Currently, only manufacturing-sector workers, farmers, and fishers are eligible for the program.
- Provide continued unemployment benefits while workers are in training by extending the number of weeks workers are eligible for Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA) from 65 to 78 if they complete their training program within that period.
- Cover job search and relocation expenses of up to $1,500 and increase supplemental wages that can be paid to workers 50 years of age or older if their new job pays less than their previous job.
- Ensure workers afford their health care even after being laid off by reauthorizing the Health Care Tax Credit (HCTC) – which expired at the end of 2013 – and by increasing the amount of the tax credit from 72.5 to 80 percent of the insurance premium.
- Fund TAA at the previous level of $575 million for financial assistance and expertise to import-affected manufacturers to help them become more competitive.
Brown has been a long-time advocate for the TAA program and efforts to ensure workers have the training and tools they need to fill jobs in high-growth industries. In Feb. 2011, Brown led 13 senators in urging House leadership to extend TAA. As one of the last acts before 111th Congress adjourned, Brown secured a six-week extension of the TAA program, in addition to the HCTC. 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.