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Hagan, Group of 14 Senators Push for Long-Term Extension of TAA

Friday, February 4, 2011

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) and 13 other senators yesterday sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging an extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, a critical lifeline for workers who lose their jobs due to foreign trade. Reauthorization of the TAA program, which ensures that displaced workers receive support and training to find new jobs, must originate in the House of Representatives. Without action from Congress, the program will expire on February 12.

"A long-term extension of TAA is essential to maintaining our nation's global competitiveness and supporting workers in North Carolina and across the country," Hagan said. "Last year, displaced workers in North Carolina received over $56 million through TAA - the second largest amount given to a single state - to help them develop skills to find new jobs. I am committed to ensuring that Congress does not turn its back on these workers and that a long-term extension of TAA is passed by next week."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 17,373 North Carolinians have been certified under TAA since the Recovery Act expansion, and 50% are covered under the new TAA provisions.

The letter, sent to House Speaker John Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin, urges the leadership to "quickly introduce and pass a long-term extension of TAA" before it expires on February 12.

"TAA is a critical part of our nation's competitiveness strategy," the senators wrote. "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. As we understand it, you and many members of the House support a long-term extension of TAA. Just six weeks ago, on December 15, 2010, the House passed an 18-month extension of TAA...with broad bipartisan support."

"All told, the reforms to TAA in 2009 help hundreds of thousands of workers, in every state," the senators continued. "Over 360,000 Americans have been certified for TAA assistance over the past two years, and over 40 percent of them were certified because of the improvements to TAA that were enacted in 2009...it is critical that we preserve all these improvements to TAA."

In addition to Hagan, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Kerry (D-MA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Carl Levin (D-MI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) signed on to the letter.

The full letter to House leadership is below:

February 3, 2011

Dear Representatives:

The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Workers program will expire on February 12, 2011 unless Congress takes action, and we are writing to ask for your help. TAA has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades. We believe that Congress should enact a long-term extension of TAA before it expires. Because the vehicle for such legislation must originate in the House, we ask that you quickly introduce and pass a long-term extension of TAA.

TAA is a critical part of our nation's competitiveness strategy. 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.

In 2009, with bipartisan, bicameral support, Congress overhauled TAA and made important improvements to the program. Specifically, the reforms made service sector workers eligible for the program, expanded access for manufacturing and secondary workers, almost tripled training funding and promoted incumbent, part-time and longer-term training. These reforms also improved and expanded access to TAA's Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC), which helps certified workers to purchase private health insurance. Until these changes were made, the TAA program had not kept pace with our changing trade and employment landscape, at a time when other industrialized countries were investing more and more resources in labor market programs.

As we understand it, you and many members of the House support a long-term extension of TAA. Just six weeks ago, on December 15, 2010, the House passed an 18-month extension of TAA in the original version of H.R.6517. This extension passed the House by voice, indicating that it had broad bipartisan support, including the support of the leadership of both parties and the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Ways and Means.

The length of the extension in H.R.6517 was reduced in the Senate, but as we understand it, this was done not because of opposition to the TAA program, but rather because of a dispute over unrelated trade matters.

All told, the reforms to TAA in 2009 help hundreds of thousands of workers, in every state. Over 360,000 Americans have been certified for TAA assistance over the past two years, and over 40 percent of them were certified because of the improvements to TAA that were enacted in 2009. The 2009 improvements also help ensure TAA program accountability and results by requiring data on performance and worker outcomes, enabling Congress to identify where improvements are needed. It is critical that we preserve all these improvements to TAA.

Thank you for considering our request. We look forward to working with you on this bipartisan issue.

 

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