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Chairman Neal Opening Statement for Subtitle D at Markup of the Build Back Better Act

(As prepared for delivery)

Our first order of business today is Subtitle D, Budget Reconciliation Legislative Recommendations Relating to Trade Adjustment Assistance.

Already this week we’ve discussed at length some of the most substantial challenges American workers face in the modern economy: lack of paid leave, inaccessible child care, and inadequate long-term savings.

International competition can also pose hardships for our workforce, and that’s why, in the 1960s, Congress established Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA. 

The COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption of trade and critical U.S. supply chains played a role in the economy’s downturn last year and the hardship workers endured. Based on lessons of the past 18 months, as well as shortcomings identified well before the coronavirus struck, we are proposing significant increased investments in TAA programs. This strengthened commitment provides targeted assistance to workers, firms, farmers, and communities to ensure that the United States devotes the resources necessary to compete internationally in the 21st century.

TAA provides a lifeline of key workforce development services and monetary support to workers who have lost their jobs due to trade. Our proposed investments will increase benefits to meet the specific needs of today’s workers; expand eligibility and restore program flexibility for workers; and streamline and improve the government’s administration of the program.

Importantly, funds will also go toward requiring new training and outreach that will help workers in historically underserved communities take advantage of the program and access its benefits.

The TAA for Firms program already has a decades-long track record of success in providing timely and essential resources to firms facing increased competition from abroad, helping them stay in business. With this proposal we aim to build on that strong foundation, expand eligibility, and invest in outreach to underserved communities and firms that may be eligible to receive assistance under the program, including the development of a strategy to better serve minority- and women-owned businesses.

In the wake of the Great Recession, Congress created a TAA for Communities program that was meant to provide financial and strategic assistance to communities in the wake of trade disruption – for example, the closure of a local factory or service center. Subtitle D proposes investments that will improve the program to ensure significant funding reaches trade-impacted communities, allowing them to rebuild the economic conditions that previously supported thriving working- and middle-class communities.

The TAA for Farmers program provides vital assistance to farms of all sizes, but it has not received new funding in a decade. In an effort to ensure farmers can effectively respond to growing import competition, we are dedicating resources to increase the amount the program provides to support the enactment of short- and long-term business plans. Our proposed investment also requires the Department of Agriculture to improve its outreach and support to small and historically disadvantaged farmers, groups that federal agricultural support policies have too often overlooked.

And finally, we propose revitalizing the TAA for Community Colleges and Career Training program, which supports the development of community colleges across the nation. It was the Ways and Means Committee that created this program back in 2009 and though we saw excellent initial success, it has lacked investment in recent years. With the $9 billion of new funding over the next seven years, the program can again provide community colleges and the students they serve with meaningful resources that help promote their success.

It’s extremely important we approve this funding to strengthen and modernize TAA. This funding will allow these programs to be even more effective and better serve beneficiaries who are confronting challenges due to competition overseas. Our workers, farmers, businesses, and communities are counting on us to provide this critical support. 

I now recognize the gentleman from Florida,  Mr. Buchanan, for purposes of an opening statement.