Bill Would Expand Benefits to Displaced Workers
Senate Democrats on Monday introduced a bill that would reauthorize and expand the 2002 Trade Adjustment Assistance Act program, which expires on Sept. 30, to allow computer programmers, call center employees and other service workers to qualify for health and other benefits, the Washington Post reports.
Under the current program, among other benefits, manufacturing workers displaced by international trade can receive tax credits that cover 65% of the cost of health insurance premiums (Montgomery, Washington Post, 7/23). Secondary workers -- those who lose their jobs because they provide services for U.S. industries affected by international trade -- also can receive the tax credits. Workers who qualify for the tax credits can receive them in advance or as a refund in their federal tax returns (California Healthline, 10/18/04).
The bill would increase the value of the tax credits to cover 85% of the cost of health insurance premiums. In addition, the legislation would eliminate a rule that limits eligibility for the program to workers displaced by U.S. trade partners and revise the application process for certain industries, among other provisions. The legislation would double federal spending on the program, which cost almost $1 billion in 2006.
According to the Post, Democrats and Republicans have "long called for an overhaul" of the program, but passage of the bill remains uncertain because this year "rancorous politics have developed around broader trade issues, threatening the proposed expansion and, potentially, the program's survival" (Washington Post, 7/23).