Washington, D.C.– Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, today called on House and Senate leaders to pass a long term extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program as amended in 2009. The program, which grants benefits to workers affected by job outsourcing, reverted to a previous version with lower benefit levels effective Feb. 15.
TAA was significantly expanded by the Trade and Globalization Adjustment Assistance Act of 2009, a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that made service sector workers eligible for the program, expanded access for manufacturing workers, significantly increased training funding, promoted on-the-job part-time and longer-term training, improved and made permanent the Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance wage insurance program, and included other popular bipartisan measures. It also increased the TAA for Workers Health Coverage Tax Credit to 80 percent of health costs.
Republicans House leaders pulled a bill Feb. 8 that would have extended both the newer TAA benefits and a law that provides trade benefits to several South American nations. Senate Republicans Feb. 10 blocked a Democratic attempt to bring the package to the floor. Because the 2009 provisions ended, TAA is currently operating under rules put in place in 2002, which includes a 65 percent rather than 80 percent health coverage tax credit and other reduced benefits.
“Supporting working families hit hard by outsourcing is a basic responsibility of a functioning government,” Grijalva said. “Our economy is not improved when we allow these jobs to disappear and tell hundreds of thousands of families they’re just out of luck. If we don’t pass a long term extension of the updated TAA benefits, many people will be unable to afford health insurance or find a new job that helps them support their family. This is not a tough call – it’s just a question of whether we have the courage to step up when needed.”
Since the reforms were implemented in May 2009, more than 170,000 additional trade-impacted workers became eligible for training opportunities and benefits. Since the 2009 law passed, more than 406,000 workers were certified as eligible for TAA support. In fiscal year 2010 alone, more than 227,000 workers received TAA training and/or income support.
Fiscal authorization for job training funding has been reduced from $575 million to $220 million, meaning that states may be unable to cover the tuition of workers currently enrolled in the kinds of long-term training programs most likely to lead to new, high-paying jobs.