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Obama plan would aid displaced workers

March 12, 2012 at 4:34 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- Plans to streamline re-employment that would reach an estimated 1 million displaced U.S. workers a year were unveiled by the White House Monday.

"Americans looking for work shouldn't have to go through a complex administrative process or navigate multiple Web sites just to figure out how to get the services and training they need," President Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "It's time to modernize the system. Anyone who has lost a job, no matter what the circumstances, deserves the same support to get back on their feet and today's announcement will help make sure they get it."

The new Universal Displaced Worker Program would give as many as 1 million workers annually high-quality job-search assistance along with access to critical skills training for high-growth and in-demand industries, the White House said.

Older workers also would have an option of wage insurance, an improvement on the current system.

Currently, the reason behind a layoff affects the type of assistance received. Workers in trade-impacted industries are eligible for extensive income support, training and re-employment services as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program while workers who displaced through no fault of their own for other reasons -- such as a plant's moving or closing -- get less generous employment services and training through the Workforce Investment Act's Dislocated Worker program on a first-come, first-served basis.

Obama's proposal also would create an American Job Center network to unify all federally supported one-stop career centers and electronic resources. Currently, names for the nearly 3,000 federally funded employment centers vary from state to state and electronic tools are spread across many Web sites, the White House said. The president's budget proposal included a $50 million investment to improve and expand the workforce centers, the White House said, adding Obama will authorize some initiatives through executive order.

Under his proposal, displaced workers would be eligible for training awards of as much as $4,000 a year for as long as two years if they need to pursue longer-term training in technical fields.

The proposal also would provide weekly stipends to help underwrite childcare, transportation and other costs while workers pursue training, as well as provide job search and relocation allowances on a sliding scale.

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