Bill extends Trade Adjustment Assistance for training and health care
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today joined U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Norm Coleman (R-MN) to announce the Trade and Globalization Adjustment Assistance Reauthorization Act. This bill takes a major step in helping repair the damage caused to American workers due to foreign trade. The legislation will expand trade adjustment assistance (TAA) to service sector workers who have lost their jobs to China and India. It will also create a new TAA program for communities that are suffering economic hardships, and make training and health care insurance benefits readily available to more workers. U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow is an original co-sponsor on the bill which is being introduced today.
"Unfair foreign trade policies have had a disastrous impact on our middle class families, forcing many of them to struggle to make ends meet while watching their jobs get shipped overseas," said Stabenow. "By strengthening and extending Trade Adjustment Assistance we can help
American workers better deal with the economic uncertainties they face while ensuring that our workforce has the skills needed to compete in a global economy. American workers are the best in the world, and they shouldn't be left out in the cold when their jobs are jeopardized by unfair trade."
The Trade and Globalization Adjustment Assistance Reauthorization Act will clarify that service workers who are affected by trade are eligible for TAA. The bill addresses the need to cover workers who are negatively affected by trade with non-FTA partner countries, ensuring that workers whose firms shift production to China or India are eligible.
The bill doubles training funding from $220 million up to $440 million. In the past, states have run out of training funding and were unable to respond to increased demand for training. This legislation will also triple funding for the TAA for Firms program from $16 million to $50 million, which helps businesses adjust to foreign competition.
Communities affected by trade will now receive $300 million in TAA. Strategic planning grants and economic development grants will now be available to eligible communities, especially rural communities, in need of a Federal response for trade-related economic hardship. These communities will have the opportunity for appeal with the Court of International Trade afforded to other TAA petitioners.
This legislation will also address the issue of discriminatory TAA worker certification within an industry. Currently, workers in one factory will get certified for TAA while workers down the road making the same product will not, even though both are adversely affected by foreign trade.
The Secretary of Labor will open industry-wide investigations if three or more petitions in an industry are certified within 180 days, or upon request by the United States Trade Representative or Congress. In the event the investigation results in a certification, eligible workers laid off in that industry could immediately enroll in TAA.
Under the new legislation, the Health Care Tax Credit (HCTC) program, which provides health insurance assistance to TAA eligible workers, will be increased to cover 85% of monthly premiums from the current 65%. The bill also reduces the time lag between receipt of the benefit and separation from employment while also improving coverage of spouses and dependants.
Farmers and fishermen will also benefit from new eligibility requirements. The bill will change the commodity price decline threshold that producers must demonstrate to qualify for TAA from the current 20% decline to a 10% decline. Producers will now be able to show a price decline in the most recent year, compared to the previous 5 years, or a decline in the two most recent years, compared to the previous three years. Fisherman will also qualify for TAA if competing against imported farmed or wild stock.
This legislation assists states with TAA caseworker funding. Currently, TAA funds do not pay for caseworker time with clients, so states must use other sources. This bill will allow states to use up to 5% of their training funds to help fund these services.
The bill will reauthorize all TAA programs, which expire September 30, 2007, through September 2012.