Charles Tressler, Local 149 representative of the Glass Molders Pottery and Alloy Workers, said the former Anchor workers learned that they are eligible for the additional benefits under a separate Department of Labor ruling.
Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, and learned the good news," said Tressler. "Although it's not as good as having our jobs back, it does mean that the former workers can now go to school after their 26 weeks of unemployment runs out or apply for additional money if they decide not to take advantage of the retraining program."
U.S. Rep. John Murtha (D-Johnstown) said the programs, TAA (Trade Adjustment Assistance) and ATAA (Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance), are provided for workers who have become unemployed because of increased imports or shifts in production to foreign countries.
He also said that TAA and ATAA programs kick in after TRA (Trade Readjustment Allowances) have been exhausted. TRA benefits are available only after the normal 26 weeks of unemployment compensation are completed.
Murtha said, "Just when we thought we were making significant progress in reviving the Fayette County economy, we read about the plant closing. We worked hard to keep it open a couple of years ago, so it's a frustrating setback for me personally, for the entire area and especially for the workers and their families."
Murtha said he is hopeful that TAA and ATAA will help relieve some of the financial and emotional stress the workers are experiencing and provide them with the opportunities they need to get back on their feet.
About 350 workers lost their jobs when the plant closed suddenly in November. The United Steelworkers of America filed the petition for TAA and ATAA certification on the workers' behalf.
Also eligible under a separate Department of Labor ruling is one employee of CRH Catering Co. of Connellsville who provided full-time on-site vending services at Anchor.
Murtha said services under TAA include two years of eligibility for income support, relocation and job search allowances, a health coverage tax credit and occupational training.
For workers age 50 and older that find new, lower-wage jobs and have exhausted their 26 weeks of unemployment, ATAA will help bridge the salary gap by providing subsidies of up to half of the difference between the old and new wage levels. Workers may be paid up to a maximum of $10,000 during a two-year eligibility period as long as they are not enrolled in a retraining program.
Tressler said the only problem he sees with TAA and ATAA is that each program has different eligibility requirements and must be applied for separately and in a timely manor.
"Employees need to pay attention to what's being offered and to the deadlines," said Tressler. "CareerLink is a good place to find out more about these programs."