Top Farm Panel Democrat Rushes to Expand Expiring Trade Program

  • Meant to help laid-off workers as companies face low demand
  • House Democrats introduced two related measures last week

The top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee is rushing to expand a program set to expire in one week that helps American workers hurt by foreign competition.

Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is set to introduce a bill Thursday with Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) to expand Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers. The TAA program provides federal aid to workers who lose their jobs because of global trade.

“I’m focused on making sure workers have good paying jobs, which includes providing them the opportunities and training they need for the jobs of the future,” Stabenow said in an emailed statement. “The Trade Adjustment Assistance program has helped workers in Michigan and across the country get back on their feet after their jobs disappeared because of trade-related reasons.”

The help for workers aligns with the Biden administration’s focus on organized labor and jobs in its economic policies.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Michigan’s senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both Democrats, walk to the Senate chamber Feb. 9, 2018.

July Expiration

TAA, last reauthorized in 2015, is set to expire July 1, reverting to a more limited version. The Senate bill would extend it for another seven years.

The legislation would expand eligibility to workers “laid off because their company cannot import supplies due to disruptions in the global supply chain or export their products because of weak demand,” according to a press release Bloomberg Government obtained.

The measure would also offer training benefits to more low-wage workers, and help communities harmed by trade gain priority for federal grants and loans. It would encourage transparency by requiring certain employers to inform both employees and states when they move jobs offshore, enabling local and federal governments to act quickly to aid workers.

Stabenow introduced a similar bill with Peters last March to expand the program, but it died in the Finance Committee.

“Reauthorizing and strengthening this program will better ensure we can adapt to automation and other changes in our economy,” Peters said in an emailed statement.

House Moves

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who leads the House Ways and Means’ Trade subcommittee, introduced two related measures last week with the backing of Democratic colleagues.

One bill (H.R. 3974) would seek to reauthorize several TAA programs for seven years, while the other (H.R. 3975) would extend the nation’s largest trade preference program through 2024, among other policies.

His subcommittee held a hearing on the TAA reauthorization in March.

To contact the reporter on this story: Megan U. Boyanton in Washington at mboyanton@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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