WASHINGTON (AP) — A House committee on Wednesday approved an overhaul of a program designed to help workers who lose their jobs because of foreign competition.
The House Ways and Means Committee voted 25-14 to advance legislation that would update the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, a Kennedy-era program giving financial and retraining aid to trade-displaced workers.
The program, started in 1962, has not be updated since then to reflect the current economy, Democrats said.
''This bill is the latest development in a new trade policy that will help American workers compete and win internationally,'' said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
Under the bill approved Wednesday, trade adjustment assistance would be expanded to cover more workers beside those who work in the manufacturing industry, including service employees. Current service sector employees like software engineers and customer service employees cannot get benefits under TAA if their jobs are moved overseas.
The legislation would also create benefits and tax incentives for industries and communities damaged by overseas trade, increase the health benefits for displaced workers and improve the unemployment insurance system, Democrats said.
Republicans offered their own bill to reauthorize the TAA program, but they could not get enough votes to get it approved in committee. ''The Democratic bill would perpetuate and even inflate current inefficiencies while expanding TAA and its costs,'' said Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La.
The bill now goes to the full House. Lawmakers have said they want to reauthorize the TAA program before agreeing to any more free trade agreements.
The Senate is also working on legislation that would reauthorize and expand the TAA program.