The budget released by President Obama last week includes spending for a universal displaced worker program to help train workers to re-enter the workforce with new skills.

Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Seth Harris says the new program will basically combine two current programs: the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program (TAA), which helps workers facing layoffs or cut-backs due to trade forces,and the Dislocated Workers Program, which covers layoffs from multiple other causes, but does not receive as much funding.

The new, Universal Displaced Worker Program would bring the benefits of TAA to many more dislocated workers theoretically

"Over the last four years we have certified close to 800 in the TAA program in Montana," explained Harris. "But there are many many hundreds many be thousands of others who have used the dislocated worker program as well, so I would say it's going to be several thousand workers in Montana."

A lot of the impact depends on how Montana's economy fares.

"If Montana's economy continues to grow and creates jobs and you don't have a great deal of displacement, then the number will be quite small," Harris said. "But if we see a lot of the kind of economic churning that we've seen. Where companies are going out of business, industries are changing, the mix of industries in the state are changing then we will see a need for this kind of program. It won't be a very big program in the state of Montana, but it will be a very important one for those workers that are displaced."

The program requires 18 billion dollars of federal funds currently which are currently allocated in the Obama budget. If the budget doesn't pass the legislature, neither does the program.

Seth Harris:


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