The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA”) includes significant changes to the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. The TAA program helps workers who have lost their jobs as a result of foreign trade. The program offers a variety of benefits and services to eligible workers, including job training, income support, job search and relocation allowances, tax credits to help pay the costs of health insurance, and wage supplements to certain reemployed trade-affected workers 50 years of age and older. In general, the changes will apply to TAA petitions filed on or after May 18, 2009. Major changes to the TAA program that employers may relay to their impacted workers are outlined below.
- TAA benefits now extend to employees of service sector firms and public sector workers who lose work because their employers obtain similar services overseas. Under the old program, only workers that “produced an article” were covered.
- TAA certification standards now cover workers whose firms shift production to any foreign country. Under the prior law, only shifts in production to NAFTA countries were sufficient in and of themselves for TAA certification.
- TAA coverage now includes parts workers who lose work due to imports of “articles directly incorporating” imported parts similar to those produced by the domestic workers. For example, workers that make transmission gears could previously gain certification only if they could show increased imports of similar transmission parts. Under the new law, if the workers can show increased imports of transmissions contributed to their loss of employment, they are eligible for TAA certification.
The legislation also expands the following benefits granted to workers:
- Expanded health care coverage by raising the premium subsidy level to 80 percent, lowering the worker contribution from 35 percent to 20 percent;
- Up to 130 weeks of cash payments for workers enrolled in full-time training and up to 156 weeks of cash payments if the worker is also enrolled in remedial training;
- Workers have more time to sign up for training-26 weeks after certification or layoff instead of 8 weeks;
- Increased wage subsidies (up to $12,000) over a period of up to two years for workers 50 years of age or older who earn less than $55,000; does not require a separate certification of group eligibility, and
- Increased job search and relocation allowances from $1,250 to $1,500.
For more information on all of the changes to the Trade Adjustment Assistance program and to find out how they may affect your organization, please contact your SGR employment counsel.