Brown Leads Group Of 14 Senators On Letter Urging Extension Of Retraining Program For Workers Who Lose Jobs To Foreign Trade

Critical Program, Set to Expire on Feb. 12, Helps Trade-Affected Workers Get Retrained for New Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and 13 other senators sent a letter today to House leadership urging an extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program, a critical lifeline for workers who lose their jobs due to foreign trade. TAA, of which reauthorization must originate in the House of Representatives, 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. 

“In the last several years, hundreds of thousands of Americans, including thousands of Ohioans, have benefited from Trade Adjustment Assistance. It is truly a lifeline for trade-affected workers, helping these individuals get back on their feet and get the skills they need to land new, good-paying jobs,” Brown said. “It’s irresponsible to pass trade agreements that close factories and send jobs overseas, and then turn our backs on the workers and communities these agreements affect. We cannot allow TAA to expire next week, which is why I am urging the House to pass a long-term extension as soon as possible.”

The letter, which was sent to House Speaker John Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin, urges leadership to “quickly introduce and pass a long-term extension of TAA” before it expires on February 12.

“TAA is a critical part of our nation’s competitiveness strategy.  It ensures that the workers affected by trade receive the support and training necessary to transition into new jobs in emerging sectors of the economy,” the senators wrote. “As we understand it, you and many members of the House support a long-term extension of TAA. Just six weeks ago, on December 15, 2010, the House passed an 18-month extension of TAA…with broad bipartisan support.”

“All told, the reforms to TAA in 2009 help hundreds of thousands of workers, in every state,” the senators continued. “Over 360,000 Americans have been certified for TAA assistance over the past two years, and over 40 percent of them were certified because of the improvements to TAA that were enacted in 2009…it is critical that we preserve all these improvements to 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 Health Care Tax Credit (HCTC), a program that helps trade-affected 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.

In addition to Sen. Brown, signatories to the letter include Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Kerry (D-MA), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Carl Levin (D-MI).

The full letter to House leadership is below.

February 3, 2011

The Honorable John Boehner                                     The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Speaker                                                                       Minority Leader

U.S. House of Representatives                                   U.S. House of Representatives

H-232, U.S. Capitol                                                    H-204, U.S. Capitol

Washington, DC 20510                                              Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Dave Camp                                        The Honorable Sander M. Levin       

Chairman                                                                     Ranking Member

Committee on Ways and Means                                 Committee on Ways and Means

1102 Longworth Office Building                               1139 Longworth Office Building

Washington, DC 20510                                              Washington, DC 20510

Dear Representatives:

The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Workers program will expire on February 12, 2011 unless Congress takes action, and we are writing to ask for your help.   TAA has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades.  We believe that Congress should enact a long-term extension of TAA before it expires.  Because the vehicle for such legislation must originate in the House, we ask that you quickly introduce and pass a long-term extension of TAA.

TAA is a critical part of our nation’s competitiveness strategy.  It ensures that the workers affected by trade receive the support and training necessary to transition into new jobs in emerging sectors of the economy.

In 2009, with bipartisan, bicameral support, Congress overhauled TAA and made important improvements to the program.  Specifically, the reforms made service sector workers eligible for the program, expanded access for manufacturing and secondary workers, almost tripled training funding and promoted incumbent, part-time and longer-term training.  These reforms also improved and expanded access to TAA’s Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC), which helps certified workers to purchase private health insurance.  Until these changes were made, the TAA program had not kept pace with our changing trade and employment landscape, at a time when other industrialized countries were investing more and more resources in labor market programs.

As we understand it, you and many members of the House support a long-term extension of TAA. Just six weeks ago, on December 15, 2010, the House passed an 18-month extension of TAA in the original version of H.R.6517.  This extension passed the House by voice, indicating that it had broad bipartisan support, including the support of the leadership of both parties and the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Ways and Means.

The length of the extension in H.R.6517 was reduced in the Senate, but as we understand it, this was done not because of opposition to the TAA program, but rather because of a dispute over unrelated trade matters. 

All told, the reforms to TAA in 2009 help hundreds of thousands of workers, in every state. Over 360,000 Americans have been certified for TAA assistance over the past two years, and over 40 percent of them were certified because of the improvements to TAA that were enacted in 2009.   The 2009 improvements also help ensure TAA program accountability and results by requiring data on performance and worker outcomes, enabling Congress to identify where improvements are needed.  It is critical that we preserve all these improvements to TAA.

Thank you for considering our request.  We look forward to working with you on this bipartisan issue.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown

Majority Leader Harry Reid

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow

U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman

U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden

U.S. Senator John Kerry

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin

U.S. Senator Richard Durbin

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

U.S. Senator Carl Levin

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