On October 12 the House by a 307-122 margin approved a measure that temporarily and retroactively extends the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program that was enacted as part of the 2009 stimulus package and expired in February 2011. The TAA is a federal, state-administered program created to provide benefits and services to individuals who become unemployed as a result of international trade. Such benefits include trade readjustment allowance, training, assistance with healthcare premium costs, alternative trade adjustment assistance, and job search and relocation allowances. The bill that has been approved by both houses of Congress – H.R. 2832 – extends the authorization of appropriations for the TAA through December 31, 2013.

With respect to the bill’s healthcare provisions, H.R. 2832 increases the amount of the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) available to those eligible to participate in the TAA program, and increases eligibility. The HCTC is a refundable tax credit that helps offset the cost of health insurance for individuals who qualify for the TAA program, and for those who receive benefits through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). The recently-passed legislation increases the amount of the credit from 65% to 72.5% effective February 13, 2011. These benefits would end after December 31, 2013.

Another provision in the legislation reinstates through January 1, 2014 the requirement that private sector employers provide TAA-covered individuals with Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) healthcare benefits.

As for unemployment compensation, the bill prevents a state from relieving an employer of benefit charges due to overpayment if the charge results from an employer’s failure to timely respond to a state’s request for information, and if the employer has exhibited a pattern or practice of failing to provide timely or adequate responses. In addition, the measure considers a “newly hired” employee to include those who had been employed before becoming unemployed for at least 60 consecutive days.

The president is expected to sign this bill into law.

UPDATE:  On October 21, 2011, President Obama signed this measure into law as Public Law No. 112-040.