As well as making our nation look foolish in the eyes of the world, Congress’ failure to agree on even the least partisan, most basic pieces of legislation is beginning to take a toll on individual Americans.
Americans like Chris Kelsaw, who was profiled by The Journal Gazette’s Sherry Slater on Sunday. Kelsaw has been working toward a degree in automotive technology from Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast, paid for by a federal program created to help workers who have been displaced by the North American Free Trade Agreement or other trade agreements.
But, as Slater reported, the Trade Adjustment Assistance program will end this year unless Congress renews it, leaving high and dry those, like Kelsaw, who have counted on it as a bridge to a new career.
TAA is the kind of eminently sensible program on which Republicans and Democrats at least used to be able to agree. It allows Congress to make judgments on international trade while providing for those hit by the inevitable loss of particular jobs.
Workers who can demonstrate that they were displaced because of trade agreements have been reimbursed for retraining, relocation costs and short-term salary inequities. It was simple fairness compounded by common sense. In one year alone, the federal government’s fiscal 2012, more than 80,000 workers lost jobs that qualified them for TAA benefits. Of those who received a TAA-funded credential during 2012, 79 percent found a job.
But unless Congress acts soon, those who are now counting on TAA may be stopped in mid-education, and new applicants will be turned away.
In our 3rd congressional district alone, 656 people have been certified for TAA within the past two years, and a worker group representing 100 more is on the waiting list.
These are real people, members of our communities, caught in the undertow of international trade and depending on this program to get their futures back.
Demand some action.