Trade Adjustment Assistance:

Most Workers in Five Layoffs Received Services, but Better Outreach Needed on New Benefits

GAO-06-43: Published: Jan 31, 2006. Publicly Released: Feb 15, 2006.

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Little is known nationally about the extent to which workers laid off as a result of international trade use the variety of federally funded reemployment services available to them. GAO was asked to study the experiences of workers affected by a small number of trade-related layoffs. GAO examined (1) the extent to which workers accessed federally funded reemployment services and the mix of services received, (2) the employment outcomes these workers achieved, and (3) the extent to which workers used the new health insurance and wage insurance benefits under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, and the factors affecting their participation.

At all five trade-related plant closures that GAO studied, about three-quarters or more of the workers received reemployment assistance through a one-stop center, and they most often received one-on-one services such as job search assistance, according to our survey estimates. About a third or less of the workers at most sites received training and long-term income support, with workers over age 55 less likely to enter training than younger workers. Workers who did not visit a center most often said they needed to find a job right away and did not think they had time to visit a center, or did not think they needed help finding a new job. At the time GAO conducted its survey, most of the workers had either found a new job or retired. At three sites, over 60 percent of the workers were reemployed. At another site, only about 40 percent were reemployed, but another third had retired. And at the final site, about a third were reemployed, but this site had the highest proportion of workers who entered training and most of them were likely still in training. The majority of reemployed workers at four of five sites earned less than they had previously--replacing about 80 percent or more of their prior wages--but at one site over half the reemployed workers matched their prior wages. Few workers at each site received either the health insurance benefit or the wage insurance benefit available to some older workers. No more than 12 percent of workers at each site received the health insurance benefit, and at four of five sites, fewer than half the workers who visited a one-stop center were aware of it. Many workers did not use it because they had other coverage or because the cost of available health insurance was too high. No more than one in five of the older workers at each site received the wage insurance benefit, and at two sites, fewer than half the older workers who visited a center were aware of it.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should provide guidance to states and local officials on how to better ensure that workers are aware of two new benefits under the TAA program: the Health Coverage Tax Credit and the Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance program. This guidance should clarify that workers need additional information beyond what is provided at initial informational meetings.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In May 2006, Labor held national conferences for state Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and rapid response coordinators. At these conferences, partly in response to GAO's recommendation, Labor encouraged state coordinators to improve their outreach to workers regarding the Health Coverage Tax Credit and Alternative TAA benefits. Specifically, Labor encouraged states to: (1) distribute fact sheets on these benefits at rapid response meetings with workers, and (2) ensure that individual counseling sessions with workers include an assessment of workers' need for these benefits.

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