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Secretary Perez to Congress: TAA is a Critical Lifeline for American Workers
SECRETARY OF LABOR
WASHINGTON. D. C. 20210
Dear Member ofCongress:
l write to express my strong support for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill included as
Title II in H. R. 1314. The TAA legislation would aid American workers displaeed by
globalization and trade by expanding current TAA eligibility, including robust beneftts for
workers and full funding for job training for six years. If we do not act now, this program which
has provided a lifeline to over 2.2 rnillion workers will expire at the end of the liscal year.
I applaud Members for their tireless efforts on behalfofworkíng families and support for job
training programs. ln 201 1. 189 Democrats (all voting Democrats), including 125 current
Members of the eaueus. supported '1`AA authorization legislation comparable to the bill currently
in front ofthe House. That bill locked in a robust TAA program for only two years, while the
version you will consider authorizes TAA for six years.
While 1 appreciate that there are differing views on Trade Promotion Authority, the TAA
program has always received strong support because it provides a critical lifeline to workers who
need assistance and training to transition to new careers.
We have a shared interest in helping working families and the TAA proposal under consideration
does exactly' that. This legislation provides an opportunity for Congress to act to meet the key
needs for a successful program. The bill would restore key eligibility provisions first passed by
Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2009. providing an estimated 24,000 to
30.000 additional participants a year with TAA benefits. many of whom are currently not
eligible. It would provide up to 130 weeks of 'Trade Readjustment Allowance (TRA) beneíits.
the length generally neeessary to complete two-year training programs. lt would also restore
funding for individualized case management and employment services that are not currently
available. but are critical to assisting workers in selecting and completing training programs and
in obtaining suitable reemployment. Finally. it would provide nearly twice the amount of annual
funding for training than the current program.
The legislation would ensure TAA benefits are available to service sector workers who have not
been covered since January 1. 2014. Over the last 17 months. over half of all petitions
submitted-impacting over an estimated 17,500 workers- -were denied TAA beneiits because
they were not covered under the current. more limited. version of TAA. Under this legislation,
these petitions would be reconsidered. Moreover. additional workers who didn`t apply because
they knew they would not be eligible under current law will have the opportunity to submit
The Department of Labor issued over 2.700 service sector certitications covering over an
estimated 151 .300 service sector workers when this eligibility was available under the 2009 and
201 1 programs. Restoring these benelits would provide opportunities for people such as
Caleigh, a single mother of two who was laid off from her service sector job with a health care
company. The TAA program enabled her to enroll in college and she is now employed as a
Family Support Eligibility' Specialist.
ln addition, the legislation would ensure TAA benefits are available to workers whose jobs are
adversely affected by trade from countries that are not parties to Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)
with the United States. including China and India. The Department of Labor certified over 3.500
non-FTA petitions covering over an estimated 253300 workers when this coverage was
available under the 2009 and 2011 programs. Restoring those benefrts would provide
opportunities for people such as Nicketa, who was a Senior Customer Service Representative at a
telecommunications company until her job was outsourced. Thanks to the TAA program. she
was able to switch careers by entering a Registered Nursing program. which allowed her to
secure a full-time job as a Registered Nurse.
A number of people have expressed criticism that Medicare provider savings are being used to
offset the cost of the TAA legislation. That offset would be reversed in the eompanion Trade
Preferences and Extension Act. ln fact, the new offsets raise revenue by combatting tax fraud
Some critics of the legislation contend that it does not include sufficient funding for job training
and that it falls short because it does not cover public sector workers.
With regard to job training funding. the Department of Labor estimates the $45O million cap on
training and other activities would be sufficient to provide full benefits to all eligible workers,
and is nearly double what the program operates with today. This estimate is based on offreial
budget economic assumptions and factors in estimates of the number of TAA partieipants, as
well as the training take-up rate. the average annual cost of training. and the average state
expenditures for administration. case management. and employment services.
lt is important to note that funds provided in a tiscal year are available for expenditure for three
years. and the legislation continues these tlexibilities that allow unused funds to be recaptured
and reallocated to states with a need for these funds. As a result. even in the depths of the Great
Recession a $45O million cap would have been sufficient to cover all TAA job training expenses.
Over the last three F iscal Years. the program spent an average of $3OO million annually - -
meaning that with a $45O million cap the Department of Labor would have $150 million in
unspent funds carried over in each year. The Department of Labor currently has significant
carry-over from prior years to supplement the $45O million annual appropriations that would
occur following enactment of the legislation you will consider. This carry over will provide
annual job training funding substantially higher than $45O million well into the authorization
The TAA program has always provided income support and job training opportunities to all
eligible workers impaeted by imports from, or a shift in production to, countries with whom we
have Free Trade Agreements (FTA). However, nearly 40 percent of TAA certifications since the
beginning of Fiscal Year 2010 have been made for workers impaeted by globalization, and this
legislation would cover these workers as well.
Finally, the last TAA authorization bill supported unanimously by Democrats in 2011 did not
include coverage for public sector workers. TAA for workers has been authorized by Congress
for over 40 years, with tens of thousands of petitions received over that period, and the only time
it ever included public sector workers was in the 2009 Program, which was discontinued in 2011.
During this period, the Department of Labor did not receive any petition for workers in a public
agency that met the eligibility criteria, and therefore no public sector worker groups were
certifred as eligible to apply for TAA benefrts. ln fact, none of the petitions submitted even
alleged that American workers lost their jobs because their services were being provided by a
foreign country. While over an estimated 17,500 private sector workers will not have their
petitions reconsidered should the bill you will consider fail to get enacted, there are zero public
sector workers similarly at risk.
The TAA program works. In Fiscal Year 2014, nearly 77 percent of TAA participants found
employment within 6 months of program completion, and 90 percent of those who found work
retained their jobs 6 months later. ln addition, nearly 83 percent of program participants who
completed training and received a post-secondary credential went back to work within 6 months
of completing the program.
This legislation provides the best - and possibly the only - plausible path to achieving a robust
extension of TAA, and in particular, one that locks in place for a significant period of time the
expansions first secured by the President and Congressional Democrats. Not acting on the
legislation will likely lead to the tennination of a program that has provided a lifeline for over 2
million American workers since its inception 40 years ago.
Again, l applaud you for your support of our shared priorities on behalf of working families,
including job training. I urge you to once again support TAA legislation so that we can provide
American workers with the support and tools they need to compete in a 2lst Century global
THOMAS E. PEREZ