July 24, 2009

With 56 Outstanding TAA Petitions in New York, Gillibrand Fights to Secure More Aid for Laid-Off Workers

Higher Demand Due to Continued Job Losses, Too Few TAA Petitions Being Answered

Washington, D.C. - Amidst continued job losses for New York workers, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is working to secure more resources for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) - a federal program that provides aid to workers who lose their jobs or whose wages are reduced as a result of increased imports. According to the Department of Labor, there are 56 outstanding TAA petitions in New York State alone.

Senator Gillibrand this week urged the Department of Labor to allocate the resources necessary to meet the increased demand for TAA and expedite TAA funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that is currently being held up by bureaucracy.

"Especially during this difficult economic time, there is nothing more disheartening for a family than losing a job," Senator Gillibrand said. "TAA provides financial assistance and training programs that are made to help workers find a good-paying job as soon as possible. We can't afford to let bureaucracy stand in the way of relief for New York workers who have experienced the worst of this economic crisis."

TAA is a federal program that provides aid to workers who lose their jobs or whose hours of work and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports or outsourcing. The program extends benefits including training for employment in another job or career, income support, job search allowance, and relocation allowances. Qualified workers may quickly return to employment through a combination of these services.

Last year, 92 petitions for TAA benefits were filed from New York, 64 of which have been certified. According to the Congressional Research Service, more than $9 million in TAA benefits were directed to New York last year and about 650 workers entered the TAA training program.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act expanded the pool of eligible TAA recipients and increased available TAA funds from $200 million to $575 million - changes that went into effect in May 2009. Despite efforts from the Labor Department to implement the expansions, paperwork has slowed getting relief to workers who need it most. In fact from May 18-22, TAA received 520 petitions for aid and has only made determinations on 109. In the same timeframe last year, TAA received 31 applications and made determinations on 30.

This week, Senator Gillibrand and 14 of her Senate colleagues called on Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to make sure this increase in relief isn't held up in government bureaucracy and kept out of the hands of displaced New York workers who need it most, and is also requesting the Department make more information available to help petitioners navigate the TAA application process. In their letter, the Senators wrote, "We believe that TAA funding is helping transform our workforce and sow the seeds of economic recovery in communities across America.  The quicker eligibility determinations are completed; the sooner petitioners nationwide can join in the opportunities of this new era. We strongly support changes that will accelerate the processing of TAA petitions and urge the Department of Labor to consider these recommendations."