Entries in Trade Adjustment Assistance Program (2)


Agreement Frees Up Free Trade Agreements

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House and Senate Democrats say they have reached an agreement on the underlying terms for a renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance for American workers, paving the way for lawmakers to move forward with pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

“[President Obama] has fought for Trade Adjustment Assistance for those American workers who lose their jobs due to increased imports or outsourcing.  As a result of extensive negotiations, we now have an agreement on the underlying terms for a meaningful renewal of a strengthened TAA,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced Tuesday in a written statement. “The President embraces these critical elements of TAA needed to ensure that workers have the best opportunity to get good jobs that keep them in the middle class.”

Trade Adjustment Assistance, which expired in February, provides financial assistance to workers, firms and farmers affected by increased trade. The White House had previously said that the three trade deals would not be submitted to Congress until lawmakers reached a deal to renew the expanded version of TAA. Now, its renewal is expected to be included into the Korea trade agreement’s implementing bill.

Still, House Republicans aren’t necessarily on board with the president’s agreement with Senate Democrats, and continue to push for TAA to be considered separately from the trade agreements.

“We’re pleased the President may finally send us the three job-creating trade agreements we’ve requested.  But we have long said that TAA -- even this scaled-back version -- should be dealt with separately from the trade agreements, and that is how we expect to proceed,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.

The Senate Finance Committee announced Tuesday that they will hold a “mock” markup this Thursday for the trio of pending trade agreements -- and the extension of TAA after brokering a deal with the White House.

The Finance Committee will consider the draft implementing bills during a "mock" markup because Congress cannot amend final implementing bills submitted by the administration under the Trade Promotion Authority Act -- also known as "fast track" -- procedures.  Committee mock markups are the only opportunities for lawmakers to offer amendments to the White House’s proposals.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Job Went Overseas? Tough Luck, Says Congress

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Congress on Saturday failed to extend the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides aid to some 150,000 workers unemployed because their jobs were outsourced overseas or their company couldn't compete with imported goods. In the past two years, about 360,000 Americans have qualified for TAA benefits, which include reimbursement for schooling and retraining costs to find jobs in a new and different industry.

The benefits paid vary by state, but an average worker enrolled in a year-long training program gets around $15,000, in addition to what TAA pays for tuition.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, in a Feb. 9 statement urging Congress to extend the program's benefits, called TAA "an essential lifeline" helping trade-impacted workers get job training, placement assistance and income support needed to help them succeed in "a tough job market."

Originally created in 1974, TAA has been modified and expanded several times. Economist Howard Rosen, executive director of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Coalition and an architect of part of that expansion, says that until a few years ago TAA was "a tiny program" with modest scope. There were only about 50,000 people enrolled in it, and its budget was about a half a billion dollars a year. But as anxieties about job losses due to globalization have increased, the program has expanded.

The biggest changes came in 2009. Up to then, only workers who'd lost jobs in manufacturing could qualify for benefits. After 2009, however, coverage expanded to include service workers and those who lose jobs when their employers shift production overseas. The expansion also gave benefits not just to makers of finished goods but to makers of components. Result: Funding for retraining has almost tripled.

Republican critics of the program, who call it ineffective, have estimated that its continuation would cost $620 million for the remainder of 2011 and $6.5 billion over the next decade.

Extension of the 2009 enhancements came up for a vote in Congress Saturday, but legislators took no action. That outcome was the result of a Byzantine political stalemate, in which extension of TAA was held hostage by Republicans trying to force Democrats to approve a trade deal involving sleeping bags.

What does Congress' inaction mean for people now receiving TAA benefits?

Nothing, says Rosen, for persons already approved and receiving benefits. They can expect to receive 100 percent of what's been promised them. The rub comes for new applicants. It's unclear for now exactly what will happen to them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio