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Thousands of workers lost access to trade assistance weeks after Congress allowed it to expire


The Department of Labor has estimated that thousands of workers have already lost access to retraining assistance and other federal resources after the expiration this month of a decades-old program intended to help those who lose their jobs because of globalization and trade.

The program expired July 1, and Congress doesn’t appear to have found a clear path to renewing it, as Democrats say Republicans are blocking efforts to reauthorize it.

The Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers, or TAA, program provided funding for retraining programs, worker relocation, job search services and more for trade-affected workers. Because Congress authorized the expiration of the program, any worker who lost their job after July 1 cannot request or appeal a request for any of these services.

The Labor Department estimated that about 4,500 workers have not received benefits from the programs since they expired, a number that is expected to rise rapidly.

“I can tell you that number is just the beginning,” said Brent Parton, acting assistant secretary of the Labor Employment and Training Administration. “We will be able to see what the numbers and the impact of the program as a whole will be in the weeks and quarters to come.”

If a company closes a factory in the United States and ships jobs overseas or closes a factory because it can find cheaper materials overseas, advocates said that decades-old safety net — which at one time enjoyed bipartisan support — has been there to help millions of Americans who qualify find new jobs.

About 100,000 people sign up for TAA each year, and the Department of Labor says more than 5 million people have used it since its inception in 1974, even though it’s a relatively unknown program. .

From now on, he will no longer be there to catch up with those who have lost their jobs.

“People who are affected now may not even know they are affected,” said Rachel Lipson, co-founder and director of the Project on Workforce at Harvard University.

Parton said program participants tended to be in their jobs for many years. They also tend to be older and less educated than the current civilian workforce, which means “they need strong services and benefits to get back on their feet,” he said. Let’s go.

More than 75% of people who participate in TAA, Parton said, leave the program and find new employment within six months.

The roughly 900 workers at a U.S. steel mill in Granite City, Illinois, who face losing their jobs after the sale of their 127-year-old mill may have qualified for the TAA, but they haven’t couldn’t apply for this before July 1st. Now, as their union hammers out details of potential layoffs with US Steel, their options are fewer.

Members of the public listen to then-President Donald Trump speak at the US Steel Corp plant. Granite City Works in Granite City, Illinois on July 26, 2018.Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dan Simmons has worked at the mill for over 40 years, right out of high school. He said the co-workers who spent the least amount of time at the plant had worked there for about eight years.

When the plant was idle in 2015, Simmons said many of his colleagues were able to enroll in TAA. They found work elsewhere and did not return when the plant restarted.

Now, he says, there are many workers in his factory who have not yet reached retirement age but who have spent decades at the factory. They have kids in school or college, face the challenges of rising inflation and the cost of living, and don’t know what to do next.

“We need other career paths and training,” he said. “The guys here have done nothing but be steel operators and cast steel, and the skills and training they have are really valuable – but in an integrated steel mill. Where are they going to go get a job? And one that pays something like them doing today?”

A 2018 Federal Reserve Bank of New York study found that after 10 years, TAA-trained workers earned approximately $50,000 more than those who did not participate in the program due to higher earnings and greater participation in the labor market.

Roy Houseman, legislative director of the United Steel Workers union, said he received help under the program when the Montana paper mill where he worked closed in 2010. He said that it had made a significant difference to him and his colleagues at the time and provided them with a sense of direction after the sudden job loss.

But Houseman has faced opposition in Congress, particularly from Republicans, who question whether it’s worth its $500 million to $1 billion price tag.

“Republicans are choosing to play games with people’s ability to get professional training and improve their lives – that’s what I’m dealing with,” he said, his voice rising. “Sorry, I’m a little livid because I can’t get 60 votes, and therefore I can’t get trade adjustment help for people.”

Thousands of workers lost access to trade assistance weeks after Congress allowed it to expire

Many Republicans resisted funding the TAA after the program was severed from the Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA, a set of laws that simplified how Congress approves trade deals. The two had previously been grouped together, but the Biden administration allowed the TPA to expire last year, in response to dissatisfaction with U.S. trade deals. The administration has said it is not inclined to create new pacts and aims to expand manufacturing in the United States.

Rep. Kevin Brady, a Republican member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement Friday to NBC News that “President Biden’s moratorium on new trade deals appears firm.” In the view of Republicans, the “moratorium” has encroached on market exports and throws cold water on the need for the TAA.

“It would take a much stronger ironclad commitment to regain American leadership in trade to even start this discussion about extending the TAA,” he said. “We’re open to creative ideas here, but if we don’t have a serious, meaningful trade agenda that opens markets for American workers, the TAA doesn’t make much sense.”

Democrats have attempted to include the program in various vehicles over the past year. They recently tried to tie it into a package to boost domestic computer chip production, which was cut to go through the Senate. TAA was cut in this process.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Republicans had “blocked” a renewal. The finance committee chairman said he plans to use the committee to “continue to make reauthorizing and improving the program a top priority for Congress — and for the workers and businesses who have it all.” to gain from a workforce that has the skills to succeed.”

Another Democrat, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, said he was deeply disappointed with the program’s expiration, particularly because he was able to negotiate a short-term extension last year. He accused Republicans of holding TAA hostage.

But the path to follow is still unclear and the scope for action by this Congress is narrowing.

Parton said Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and the White House were working with Congress in hopes of getting the program reauthorized.

“On the one hand, nobody wants to see that the program expiration has happened,” he said. But he hoped ‘the impact of this will create some urgency around getting a deal done’.

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