The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, administered by the Department of Labor (Labor), is the nation's primary program providing income support, job training, and other benefits for manufacturing workers who lose their jobs as a result of international trade. In preparation for TAA reauthorization in 2007, GAO was asked to assess several aspects of the TAA program. Specifically, we examine (1) recent trends in Labor's certification of petitions and workers' participation in training; (2) the challenges, if any, that states face in managing TAA training funds; and (3) the extent to which workers use the TAA wage insurance and health coverage benefits and the factors, if any, that limit participation.
Matter for Congressional Consideration
|To to allow states greater flexibility in how they may use their TAA funds to provide services to workers, Congress may wish to consider allowing a portion of TAA training funds to be used for case management services.||Under Public Law 111-5, enacted on February 17, 2009, Congress amended the Trade Adjustment Assistance program to require states to spend no less than one-third of the funds provided for administration, employment, and case management services to be spent on employment and case management services. Moreover, Congress required that, in addition, to any training funds provided, the Secretary of Labor is to provide each state with an additional $350,000 each fiscal year to be used for employment and case management services.|
|In order to make it easier for workers to comply with the training enrollment deadline, Congress may wish to consider simplifying the deadline by specifying a single time period that commences when workers are laid off or petitions are certified, whichever is later.||Under Public Law 111-5, enacted February 17, 2009, Congress amended the Trade Adjustment Assistance program by changing the deadline by which workers need to enroll in training to qualify for extended income support benefits. Previously participants must have been enrolled in training by the later of two dates: either 16 weeks after being laid off or 8 weeks after Labor certified their petition. Congress amended the deadline to one single time period: 26 weeks after certification or separation, whichever is later.|
|If Congress decides to extend the wage insurance benefit demonstration program, Congress may wish to consider easing some of the constraints on accessing this benefit to enable more workers to take advantage of it, including increasing the length of time workers are allowed to become reemployed, eliminating the requirement that a firm's affected workers must lack transferable skills in order for a group of workers to be certified as eligible for wage insurance, and eliminating the requirement that a significant number of a firm's workers be age 50 or over in order for a group of workers to be certified as eligible for wage insurance.||Under Public Law 111-5, enacted February 17, 2009, Congress amended the Trade Adjustment Assistance program and removed the reemployment deadline for Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance wage insurance benefit eligibility and no longer requires a separate certification of group eligibility.|
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Labor||1. In order to better ensure that TAA training funds are allocated to states that have demonstrated a need for training funds and have used a significant portion of the funds they have already been allocated, the Secretary of Labor should change the process for initially distributing training funds, including the initial allocation percentage and the hold harmless policy.|
|Department of Labor||2. In order to better ensure that TAA training funds are allocated to states that have demonstrated a need for training funds and have used a significant portion of the funds they have already been allocated, the Secretary of Labor should develop procedures to better allocate the reserve funds throughout the fiscal year to enable states to carefully manage their training resources, ensuring that these reserve funds are distributed only to those who have spent or obligated a significant portion of the current fiscal year allocation.|