WASHINGTON, D.C. – With critical retraining assistance for workers who lose their job due to foreign trade set to expire in September, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today introduced a bill to extend and improve Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). TAA provided retraining assistance and assistance to more than 20,000 Ohio workers between 2009 and 2014, but the current program leaves out workers who lose their jobs to countries like China – with which the U.S. does not have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) – or to workers in the service sector. Brown’s bill would extend the reauthorization for TAA and expand eligibility requirements to reflect 21st century realities
“Wrong-headed trade deals have displaced too many Ohioans. Workers who lose their jobs due to foreign trade shouldn’t be left to fend for themselves,” Brown said. “Thanks to Trade Adjustment Assistance, more workers are able to train for jobs in high-growth industries that have jobs to fill. We must put an end to short-term fixes for this program and pass a long-term extension to give Ohio families more security and support.”
Administered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), TAA is a federal program that identifies workers who lose their jobs or have their 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.
The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, introduced today, would provide a long-term authorization for TAA 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.
- Extend eligibility to workers who lost their jobs due to increased imports from countries like China, with which the United States does not have an FTA.
- Provide an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits while workers are in training and 26 additional weeks if workers will complete their training program within the extended 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 can 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 to dislocated workers and TAA for firms at $50 million to provide 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 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 111th Congress adjourned, Brown secured a six-week extension of the TAA program, in addition to the HCTC.
Brown has also defended the HCTC – to help retirees maintain affordable health care and benefits after the companies they worked for moved overseas or entered bankruptcy. Earlier this month, Brown introduced legislation to extend HCTC for five years and to retroactively cover workers since the HCTC lapsed in January 2014.