Washington, DC – With critical retraining assistance for workers who lose their job due to foreign trade set to expire in September, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Senate colleagues introduced a bill to extend and improve Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). TAA provides retraining assistance to American workers, 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) – and workers in the service sector. The bill would extend the reauthorization for TAA and expand eligibility requirements to reflect 21st century realities.
“Pennsylvania workers have lost out time and again on these trade deals," Senator Casey said. “Over the past 20 years, these deals have shipped jobs overseas and cut wages for the jobs that remain. We simply cannot allow Pennsylvania’s workers to be undercut again.”
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. Specifically, the program provides benefits such as 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.
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.