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.
The program in 2002 began paying for eligible laid-off manufacturing workers’ education and training costs and 65 percent of the costs of health insurance premiums for 130 weeks, or two and a half years.
Then amendments to the Recovery Act expanded the program to include laid-off workers from service industries. The federal government also paid for higher education or training and 80 percent of insurance premiums for 156 weeks, or three years.
The TAA amendment to the Recovery Act included a sunset provision that caused the stimulus-backed part of the program to expire last Saturday. The changes went into effect Tuesday.
Like there Was no Stimulus
Anyone who began receiving TAA benefits during the stimulus won’t see any changes, said Valerie Kroeger, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
The return to the previous system will go into effect for any TAA applications that the Department of Labor receives after last Tuesday.
The program’s funding dropped from $575 million to $220 million with the end of the stimulus infusion.
The average cost nationally was about $15,000 per recipient, plus the cost of tuition. The average was about the same in Indiana, where 20,000 state residents use the program, Kroeger said.
Democrats pressed Republicans earlier this month to consider extending the program, but there was never a vote before the deadline.
Some members of the U.S. House of Representatives have suggested writing a bill to restore TAA to its Recovery Act level, but no formal action has taken place.
The Way Kokomo Used It
Chrysler, Delphi Electronics and Safety and General Motors Components Holdings have been among the Kokomo companies that had laid-off employees become eligible for TAA since 2009.
Employers in Peru, Logansport and Converse have also had employees become eligible in the past two years.
To receive the benefits, the companies, union representatives or groups of unemployed individuals need to submit petitions to the Department of Labor, including proof the jobs went away because of foreign competition.
The number of students who use TAA money to attend school has dipped since 2009 at Ivy Tech’s Kokomo Region, which covers Kokomo, Peru, Logansport and Wabash. The Kokomo Region’s TAA enrollment has declined from about 550 during the spring 2010 semester to about 330, Simmons said.
Students using the federal funding account for about 5.6 percent of the region’s total enrollment of 5,927.
Many of them are looking for work in fields they think will have better job potential and security, Simmons said.
“It appears to me, right now, that a big portion of them are going into health care or into the computer sciences area,” she said. “And it varies. We have some that are still very interested in the technician programs and their particular areas of expertise.”
Hall said it was better job security that motivated him to become a heating and cooling technician.
“That’s one thing everybody will need,” he said. “Robots can’t do it, and they won’t ship my job overseas.”
• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8570 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.