WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Senate considers legislation to grant the Administration with trade promotion authority to pass the largest trade agreement ever negotiated and extend the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will offer the first Democratic amendment to the bill. Brown’s amendment would help take care of workers affected by unfair foreign trade by increasing TAA funding from $450 to $575 million – the funding level in President Obama’s budget and in the 2009 and 2011 TAA programs. This funding level has previously received strong bipartisan support. The amendment is fully offset and would not add to the deficit.
“Trade agreements shouldn’t amount to corporate handouts and worker sellouts. We can’t pass fast track authority for the largest trade agreement ever without fully investing in workers who lose their jobs due to trade,” Brown said. “The Trade Adjustment Assistance program helps workers retrain for new jobs so they can compete in the global economy. With new trade agreements down the road affecting more than 60 percent of the world’s economy, we must restore TAA funding levels.”
The current bill would extend the TAA program, which is set to expire in September 2015, through 2020 at $450 million. Brown’s amendment would fund the program at its previous level of $575 million.
During last month’s Senate Finance Committee markup of the legislation, Brown filed an amendment to this effect, as well as other amendments to make more workers, including service sector workers and those who have lost their jobs to countries with which the U.S. does not have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) – such as China – eligible for TAA benefits. He also filed an amendment to further expand TAA eligibility to include public sector workers, in effect making all workers eligible for TAA.
In February, Brown introduced the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act to extend and improve TAA for displaced workers. Between 2009 and 2014, TAA provided retraining assistance to more than 20,000 Ohio workers who lost their jobs to foreign trade.
Brown has long been an advocate for the TAA program and has fought to ensure that workers have the training and tools they need to fill jobs in high-growth industries. In November 2014, Brown successfully led a group of 14 senators in calling on the Senate Appropriations Committee to maintain funding for the TAA program so workers could continue to receive benefits through September 2015. In February 2011, Brown led 13 senators in urging House leadership to extend TAA. As one of the last acts before the 111th Congress adjourned, Brown secured a six-week extension of the TAA program, in addition to the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC).
Administered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), TAA is a federal program that identifies workers who have lost their jobs or seen hours or wages reduced as a result of increased imports and helps them prepare for new careers. The program extends benefits including training for employment in another job or career, income support, job search allowances, and relocation allowances. Qualified workers may quickly return to work through a combination of these services. DOL estimates that since 1975, two million workers nationwide have relied on TAA to make ends meet and receive training necessary to find a new job. Brown released a county-by-county list of Ohio companies affected by foreign trade whose workers used TAA benefits to help train for new jobs.