WASHINGTON (Feb. 16, 2011)-The U.S. Senate's failure to renew a key aid program for laid-off workers has sent supporters scrambling for ways to bring the program back to the Senate floor.
The Senate failed on the Feb. 12 deadline to extend the 2009 expansions to the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides job training to workers laid off because their jobs are moved overseas.
More than 360,000 workers have received or been certified for job training and education under the 2009 TAA expansions, which were part of President Obama's economic recovery package. As many as 170,000 of those workers wouldn't have received help without the 2009 provisions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Failure to extend the broader version of TAA doesn't eliminate the program, which reverts to the rules that were in place as of 2002. But it does mean that service workers will no longer be eligible to apply for TAA relief. Neither will workers who lose their jobs because of trade with countries that don't have a free trade agreement with the U.S., such as China.
On the Senate floor, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., objected three successive times to the efforts of Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Robert Casey of Pennsylvania to bring TAA extension to a vote, according to a press release from Brown's office.
Brown, Casey and 12 other Democratic senators sent a letter Feb. 4 to the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, urging the extension of the 2009 TAA provisions.
“TAA is a critical part of our nation's competitiveness strategy,” the senators wrote the House leadership. “It ensures that the workers affected by trade receive the support and training necessary to transition into new jobs in emerging sectors of the economy.”
A spokeswoman for Brown's office said he is working with Casey and others to find other opportunities to extend the 2009 program.
Failure of the TAA extension is particularly bad news for members of the United Steelworkers union, according to Roy Houseman, a USW legislative assistant in Washington.
“The TAA program is critically important to our members,” Houseman said. Goodyear's recent announcement that it will close its Union City, Tenn., facility, throwing some 1,900 workers out of a job, underlines the importance of the program, he said.
Houseman said he himself was a beneficiary of the TAA program, when the paper mill in Montana where he worked closed down.
In a Feb. 9 statement, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis urged long-term extension of the 2009 TAA provisions.
“A long-term extension of the expanded program would help many who are facing layoffs and seeking re-employment in a persistently challenging job market,” Solis said.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department has sent a guidance letter to the individual states with instructions on how to administer the TAA program after the 2009 provisions have lapsed.
Among other things, the letter states that TAA benefit petitions received by the appropriate agencies by 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 14 are still eligible for the 2009 benefits.