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Baldwin Joins Efforts to Extend Critical Retraining Benefits for Workers Who Lose their Job to Foreign Trade

Bill would make more workers eligible for retraining benefits that are set to expire in September

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With critical retraining assistance for workers who lose their job due to foreign trade set to expire in September, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has joined Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to introduce a bill to extend and improve Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). Since 2009, more than 13,000 Wisconsin workers were served through TAA. Last year alone, TAA covered over 2,000 Wisconsin workers and pumped $27 million worth of training dollars into the state to help trade displaced workers get new skills, 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. The bill would extend the reauthorization for TAA and expand eligibility requirements to reflect 21st century realities. 

“Wisconsin workers who lose their jobs due to foreign trade shouldn’t be left to fend for themselves,” Baldwin 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 Wisconsin families the security and support they deserve.”

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.

The bill also reauthorizes the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program, which provides funding to community colleges and other educational institutions to provide training programs that can be completed in two years. In 2013, the Obama Administration awarded a consortium of Wisconsin technical colleges $23,177,882 in grants under TAACCCT. Baldwin toured Northcentral Technical College, the consortium leader and recipient of over $6 million of the grant, in September 2014.

The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act 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.

Learn more about the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act here.