Senator sends Obama free trade letter

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Senator sends Obama free trade letter

Dayton Business Journal – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, led a group of 43 senators this past week that told President Barack Obama not to submit any free trade agreements — including pending agreements for Colombia, Panama, and South Korea — until Congress agrees to extend a long-term extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance. That includes the 2009 bipartisan reforms with improvements to the Health Coverage Tax Credit.

Brown announced he signed on to the TAA Health Coverage Improvement Act, a bill which would increase the current health coverage tax credit of 65 percent to 95 percent of the health insurance premium to enable more trade-displaced workers to join the program. The credit helps trade-affected workers, select groups of retirees and their families purchase private health coverage to replace employer-sponsored coverage they lost.

Since 2009, the number of displaced workers and retirees using the HCTC has more than tripled to about 50,000, Brown’s office said.

The coverage was increased to 80 percent as part of the Recovery Act in 2009. The expanded tax credit expired in February, impacting thousands of trade-affected workers.

“If Congress passes wrong-headed trade agreements, we cannot turn our back on the workers who have been affected by them,” Brown said. “Our economy is on the rebound, but we must extend HCTC to ensure that workers looking for new jobs and retirees that need health coverage for themselves and their families can still afford to purchase it.”

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