Helping Your Laid Off Workers: Have You Ever Heard of Trade Adjustment Assistance?

An article in the Wall Street Journal Online,on Monday April 20th, entitled Crazy-Quilt Jobless Programs Help Some More Than Others pointed out a program called Trade Adjustment Assistance. According to the USDOL website “Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance (ATAA) help trade-affected workers who have lost their jobs as a result of increased imports or shifts in production out of the United States. Certified individuals may be eligible to receive one or more program benefits and services depending on what is needed to return them to employment.” According to the WSJ article TAA is “an obscure federal program called Trade Adjustment Assistance. Launched by President John F. Kennedy, TAA offers superior unemployment benefits to U.S. manufacturing and farm workers who lose jobs due to imports or production shifts out of the country.”

A very small percentage of workers are receiving these benefits, mostly because few workers or companies are aware of the program. Groups of workers, or a company on their behalf, must apply for certification and then workers have to pursue it on their own. “To obtain TAA or ATAA services and benefits, a group of workers must first file a petition with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Division of Trade Adjustment Assistance (DTAA) requesting certification as workers adversely affected by foreign trade. If certified, each worker in the group may then apply separately for individual services and benefits through their local One-Stop Career Center. Workers age 50 and older who are certified as eligible to apply for both TAA and ATAA may choose whether to participate in the TAA program or the ATAA program, but may not participate in both.”

There are problems with the program beyond it being relatively unknown. One problem is that the staff to handle certification is only 3 people and they are overwhelmed with requests. Another problem, according to the WSJ article is “The trade-adjustment program underscores broader problems with the way U.S. unemployment benefits are distributed. Critics say it’s impossible to pinpoint who, exactly, is displaced by global trade. Moreover, they say, singling out a small class of unemployed Americans for richer benefits is discriminatory.” The U.S. unemployment-insurance system is a patchwork of state and federal programs. Each state administers its own benefits, doling out up to 26 weeks of checks based on the worker’s former salary.

The patchwork nature of the system, the particular requirements of various programs make it difficult to determine who is eligible for what. But if your company or your terminated workers qualify for TAA the benefits are very nice. According to the WSJ “…the government sweetened the pot even more for TAA recipients. Workers approved after May 18 will qualify for an 80% tax credit for health insurance, up from 65% currently. They’ll be eligible for as much as 2½ years of cash payments, up from two years now, with schooling and related transportation paid during the period. TAA beneficiaries over 50 who find lower-paying work can recoup as much as $12,000 in “lost” wages from the government, up from $10,000.”

So if you are in a business that has suffered due to work being transfered overseas, or foreign competition is making business difficult check into the Trade Adjustment Assistance by clicking on the USDOL link above and learning if you can apply for certification for your workers.

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