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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined 12 Senators in sending a letter to House leaders urging them to extend the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Workers program that is set to expire on February 12, 2011. TAA provides job retraining, income support, and health care benefits to workers who have been adversely impacted by federal trade policies.

“Washington is the most trade dependent state in the nation. And while trade has created jobs and economic growth in sectors across our state, in some cases it has disrupted American jobs and negatively impacted workers and their communities,” said Senator Murray.  “TAA helps those workers hurt by trade get the retraining and the support they need to get back to work and competing in today’s economy. I will continue to work to keep family-wage jobs in Washington state while ensuring those who have been impacted by trade are getting the support they need to get back on the job.”

The letter was signed by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Harry Reid (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Kerry (D-MA), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Carl Levin (D-MI).

Full text of the letter is below:

February 3, 2011

The Honorable John Boehner                           
U.S. House of Representatives                                   
H-232, U.S. Capitol                                                   
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
H-204, U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Dave Camp                                                   
Committee on Ways and Means                                 
1102 Longworth Office Building                                
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Sander M. Levin
Ranking Member
Committee on Ways and Means
1139 Longworth Office Building
Washington, DC 20510 

Dear Representatives:

The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Workers program will expire on February 12, 2011 unless Congress takes action, and we are writing to ask for your help.   TAA has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades.  We believe that Congress should enact a long-term extension of TAA before it expires.  Because the vehicle for such legislation must originate in the House, we ask that you quickly introduce and pass a long-term extension of TAA.

TAA is a critical part of our nation’s competitiveness strategy.  It ensures that the workers affected by trade receive the support and training necessary to transition into new jobs in emerging sectors of the economy.

In 2009, with bipartisan, bicameral support, Congress overhauled TAA and made important improvements to the program.  Specifically, the reforms made service sector workers eligible for the program, expanded access for manufacturing and secondary workers, almost tripled training funding and promoted incumbent, part-time and longer-term training.  These reforms also improved and expanded access to TAA’s Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC), which helps certified workers to purchase private health insurance.  Until these changes were made, the TAA program had not kept pace with our changing trade and employment landscape, at a time when other industrialized countries were investing more and more resources in labor market programs.

As we understand it, you and many members of the House support a long-term extension of TAA. Just six weeks ago, on December 15, 2010, the House passed an 18-month extension of TAA in the original version of H.R.6517.  This extension passed the House by voice, indicating that it had broad bipartisan support, including the support of the leadership of both parties and the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Ways and Means.

The length of the extension in H.R.6517 was reduced in the Senate, but as we understand it, this was done not because of opposition to the TAA program, but rather because of a dispute over unrelated trade matters. 

All told, the reforms to TAA in 2009 help hundreds of thousands of workers, in every State. Over 360,000 Americans have been certified for TAA assistance over the past two years, and over 40 percent of them were certified because of the improvements to TAA that were enacted in 2009.   The 2009 improvements also help ensure TAA program accountability and results by requiring data on performance and worker outcomes, enabling Congress to identify where improvements are needed.  It is critical that we preserve all these improvements to TAA.

Thank you for considering our request.  We look forward to working with you on this bipartisan issue.