Oregon Congressman David Wu will introduce a bill this month to improve transparency and streamline access to Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits for workers displaced by outsourcing to other countries as a result of unfair free trade deals.
The TAA program offers job training and placement support, income assistance, and relocation benefits to eligible workers who demonstrate that their layoff was related to international trade. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and funds are disbursed by states. However, as applications for TAA certification increase, the wait time for a final determination from DOL has grown to nearly a year for some workers.
“Receiving a layoff notice is one of the most stressful things a worker may ever experience,” Wu said. “It’s not acceptable that the newly unemployed are then subjected to a months-long wait to even learn whether they qualify for benefits to find a new job. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Accountability Act will ensure that displaced workers get answers quickly so they can move on with their lives.”
Under the proposed bill, workers would have the right to ask for written status updates from the DOL, allowing them to pinpoint the cause of delayed determinations. The bill also creates nationwide consistency for TAA determinations in the same sector, which will mean that a steelworker in Oregon receives the same treatment and benefits as steelworkers elsewhere. Finally, the bill also makes it easier for workers to respond to information that may negatively affect their claim for benefits.
Wu said more than 10,000 Oregon workers were deemed eligible for TAA benefits last year, with some having to wait more than 10 months before knowing whether they were eligible for benefits.
“Our long-term economic health relies on workers’ ability to find new jobs after a layoff,” Wu said. “This bill will help displaced workers remain competitive in our high-tech economy.”