Without Congressional Action, Programs Will Expire in Mid-February
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) visited the Mahoning One-Stop today to call on Congress to extend two critical federal programs for out-of-work Americans, the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) as well as improvements to Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). Brown successfully secured a temporary extension during the final minutes before Congress adjourned in December, but both programs will expire in mid-February without a longer-term extension.
“Trade Adjustment Assistance and the Health Care Tax Credit are lifelines for tens of thousands of Americans—who through no fault of their own, lost their job or their pensions and healthcare benefits,” Brown said. “We can’t pass trade agreements that undermine Ohio workers, and then turn our backs on those workers when they lose their jobs. That’s why programs like TAA are so important—they help Ohioans regain their footing with retraining and job search assistance.”
“The Recovery Act included important new updates to both of these programs, so that more workers could qualify for TAA benefits and more displaced workers and retirees, like those at Delphi, could afford to purchase private health care insurance,” Brown continued. “With our economy still on the mend, we must ensure that these vital support systems remain intact for workers looking for new jobs and retirees that need health coverage for themselves and their families.”
Brown was joined by Mary Ann Hudzik of Warren’s Delphi Salaried Retiree Association (DSRA), whose members stand to benefit from the HCTC extension, as well as Janet Cornwell, a worker displaced from Delphi in Warren when her job was sent to Mexico. Janet is currently attending Mahoning County Career & Technical Center's pharmacy-tech program, which is funded by TAA.
The HCTC helps trade-affected workers and retirees purchase private health coverage to replace the employer-sponsored coverage they lost. This provision would assist Delphi retirees who have yet to receive pension or healthcare benefits from their former employer, General Motors. Since 2009, the number of displaced workers and retirees using the HCTC has more than tripled, increasing from 14,000 to approximately 50,000.
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 good, new jobs. These workers may be eligible for the following services through TAA: job training, job search and relocation allowances, health insurance premium assistance, additional weeks of unemployment insurance, and temporary income support for workers near retirement age who are forced to accept a low-paying job.
“Trade Adjustment Assistance provides essential benefits to workers who greatly need them. Without an extension of trade assistance as it is now, Ohio workers who lose their jobs because of trade will not get the help they need. Fewer workers will be able to qualify, and those who do won’t get the same help they do now,” said Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters Ohio.
In late December, thanks to Brown and U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-17), Congress approved a six-week extension of the HCTC and the improvements to the TAA program. 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.