Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Business

February 18, 2011

Worker program shrinking

Hundreds of the area’s unemployed have gone back to school under TAA

Kokomo — After 12 years working at Chrysler Group LLC’s Kokomo Transmission Plant, Monte Hall was out of a job.

He took a buyout in April 2009, a time when Kokomo’s largest employer was undergoing bankruptcy proceedings.

“I got hit [financially] for about four or five months,” said the 34-year-old father of three. “When they offered schooling, I figured it would be a good thing to check out. ... I was trying to continue on with school on my own dime, but it was going to take a lot longer.”

He received a notice that he was eligible for the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which helps cover higher education and health insurance costs, among other benefits, for people who lose their jobs because of effects from foreign trade.

By May 2010, Hall collected an associate degree, and he has a job as a heating and cooling technician with Sears Holding Corp. Although he isn’t earning as much as he did when he left Chrysler, he said he’s confident he will someday and he has better advancement opportunities in his new field.

Hall is among hundreds of Kokomo area residents who have used services from the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which began undergoing cuts this week after stimulus funding expired.

The program will now revert to its pre-American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding level and services.

Workers already receiving help from TAA won’t see any changes. But those laid-off from service-industry jobs will no longer be eligible. Those who will continue receiving aid, which is now limited to manufacturing workers, will have a half-year less of help, among other cuts.

Eight Kokomo businesses, including three of the city’s largest employers, and three companies from nearby communities have had workers become eligible for TAA since 2009.

At the peak for local TAA usage in spring 2009, the Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Region had about 550 students using the federal funding to pay for their schooling, said Michelle Simmons, the region’s vice chancellor for student affairs.

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