As a recent Letter to the Editor in the News Tribune pointed out, assistance is available to laid-off workers and businesses impacted by foreign trade, and it is being underutilized. The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, in partnership with the State Employment Security Department, maintain a website — TAA-Washington.org — to help laid-off workers and downsizing businesses affected by foreign competition access the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.
Here are some examples of the benefits available to laid-off workers:
- A 65% health-care coverage subsidy;
- Extended fully funded vocational training;
- Extended income support (equivalent to weekly Unemployment Insurance benefits) for an additional 2-3 years;
- $1,500 to travel out of the area to search for work;
- More than $1,500 to relocate out of the area for work; and
- A 50% wage subsidy for workers over the age of 50.
(These benefits reflect those available to workers laid off from an already TAA-certified company. Benefits may be slightly different for future certifications but are still substantial.)
There is a related TAA for Firms program, administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce, that provides up to $75,000 in matching funds to help affected firms better compete in the global economy. More information about TAA for Firms can also be found at TAA-Washington.org.
“In today’s economy there’s a tendency to blame layoffs on the downturn,” said WSLC President Jeff Johnson. “But foreign competition is still a huge factor as employers continue to seek higher profits and lower wages. The State Labor Council is committed to helping workers access the TAA program because of the considerable support it provides. This website is helping us reach the large population of workers and businesses that are potentially eligible but don’t know the program even exists.”
“It is devastating to see my members lose family-wage jobs because of cheaper labor offshore,” said Dan Morgan, Directing Business Representative of the International Association of Machinists District Lodge 160, “but the TAA program has helped them get by when all other support would have fallen short or dried up.” Morgan represents TAA-certified firms Alcoa Intalco Works in Ferndale and Kenworth Trucking in Seattle.
In addition to TAA-Washington.org, workers and employers can get information about the TAA program by calling toll-free 866.TAA.3399, also administered by the WSLC in partnership with ESD.