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The existing TAA program

The 2002 Trade Act brought about a number of changes to the 'Trade Adjustment Assistance' program designed to help workers dislocated by trade.  The vote in the House of Representatives on the Trade Act was very close, and there's good reason to believe that the improvements made in TAA were critical to the final count.

2002 reforms of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program included:

  • Merger of TAA and a NAFTA-focused adjustment assistance program.
  • TAA eligibility for workers who produced goods that are components of a product (like cars) subject to trade competition; eg., workers at DELCO.
  • Shift in production to countries with which the United States has signed bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs).
  • A refundable tax credit for health insurance--65% to offset the cost of maintaining health insurance for two years.
  • Wage insurance.  Targeted at workers over 50 years of age, this program covers half the difference in salary between old and new jobs.
  • Doubling of the amount appropriated for training.  However, this amount was subject to annual appropriations cycles in Congress.
  • Increase in job search assistance and relocation.

source:  "Easing the Adjustment Burden on US Workers," Kletzer and Rosen

But the TAA program is currently in limbo. The Trade Adjustment Assistance program expired on 31 Dec 2007.  The House passed a three-month extension, but the Senate could not agree on a bill before they adjourned for the year.  There was money for TAA in the omnibus appropriation bill passed by Congress for this year (2008), even though the program itself was not reauthorized.  The Department of Labor, which administers TAA, said that the appropriation provided sufficient basis to continue operating the program--but until when, it's not clear. 

Reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance is currently wrapped up in a dispute regarding passage of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. 

 The debate in Congress on TAA reauthorization

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