U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) yesterday introduced a bill to expand and improve the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.  H.R. 3801, the TAA Improvement Act, extends TAA to service industry workers; improves access to training, health care, and wage insurance benefits; creates a program to address community needs; and reauthorizes TAA programs through fiscal year 2012.

“The economy has changed in a thousand different ways since the TAA program was first implemented, and the government has not responded sufficiently to help workers.  My bill will extend TAA to service-sector employees, improve accessibility of TAA’s various benefits, and help communities impacted by trade,” Smith said.

Congress created the TAA program in 1962 in response to the loss of jobs among hard-working Americans and to promote American competitiveness.  TAA benefits have several components: training assistance, income support while in training, and job search and relocation assistance.  The program assists workers dislocated due to government policies that eliminated tariffs and other barriers to trade.  However, under current law, the program extends coverage only to workers in manufacturing and agricultural sectors, even though service-sector jobs also are increasingly moving overseas. 

The TAA Improvement Act:

  • Extends TAA benefits to service sector employees including IT workers, engineers, customer services employees, and others.
  • Doubles the current training funding cap from $220 million to $440 million, and builds in a mechanism for increasing the cap in future years to ensure that benefits are accessible for all eligible workers.
  • Increases TAA’s healthcare premium subsidy from the current 65 percent to 85 percent.
  • Simplifies application process by authorizing Secretary of Labor to certify groups of workers as eligible for TAA on an industry-wide basis rather than on a plant-by-plant basis as in current law.
  • Establishes a “TAA for Communities” program to assist communities heavily impacted by trade-related displacement.

Smith introduced similar legislation in the 108th and 109th Congresses.  The bill is similar to Senator Max Baucus’s (D-Mont.) S. 1848.