February 18, 2009

Bingaman, Udall and Teague: Chino Mine Workers Eligible for Federal Assistance

SANTA FE - U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, and Representative Harry Teague, today applauded news that the U.S. Department of Labor has determined that workers laid off from the Chino mine are eligible for federal assistance.


The New Mexico lawmakers urged then-Labor Secretary Elaine Chao in a December letter to quickly approve any application made for Trade Adjustment Assistance. The Obama Administration has announced that the application made on behalf of Chino miners was approved. TAA provides aid - such as extended unemployment benefits, funds for retraining, and reimbursable health care tax credits -- to workers who lose their jobs or whose hours of work and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports.


"This federal assistance will help hundreds of southwest New Mexico families make ends meet now, while preparing workers for new employment," Bingaman said. "I applaud the Department of Labor's quick action in approving the mine workers' application."


"This is welcome news from the Department of Labor," said Udall. "The swift approval of the TAA mine worker's application will go a long way towards helping Southwest, New Mexico miners, and their families, while they pursue new work opportunities during these difficult economic times."


"The timely approval of the TAA funds will help the hundreds of families that have been affected by the layoffs get back on their feet as they make the transition to new employment," said Teague.


The New Mexico lawmakers also reported that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included a reauthorization of all TAA programs through December 2010, as well as an expansion of Trade Adjustment Assistance programs. It also authorized a new program Bingaman helped write called TAA for Communities - an initiative that would allow, among other things, an entire community to be certified as eligible for assistance such as two years of retraining, income support payments at the state unemployment income level for the duration of that training, and job search and relocation allowances. There are alternative benefits that older workers can opt for. TAA for Communities would also extend benefits to workers in these communities who are indirectly harmed by trade.


The owner of the Chino mine, Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, Inc., announced in December that it planned to reduce copper production and lay off three quarters of its workers in southwest New Mexico. In their December letter to Chao, the lawmakers wrote:


"We are writing on behalf of the workers at the Chino and Tyrone copper mines in southwestern New Mexico, whose application for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) you will receive in the coming weeks. We ask that you begin the required investigation now in order to prevent any delays during the presidential transition. In these difficult economic times it is more important than ever to act with all due speed to determine whether TAA benefits are available to these workers. We appreciate your consideration of this request."


Workers from the Tyrone and Morenci (AZ) mines are expected to also seek TAA assistance.