Steelworkers urged to apply for federal benefits
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 10:58

Deadline for many workers is in December

by Nicole Rodman

    Though the holidays are quickly approaching, for steelworkers across the area, things are anything but jolly.
    Many are still struggling after nearly 2,000 workers were laid off from the RG Steel plant following the company’s bankruptcy last May.
    Now, just 44 workers remain, keeping the lights on while new mill owners Hilco Industrial and Environmental Liability Transfer (ELT) decide what’s next for the property.
    While the future of steel at Sparrows Point does not look promising, a variety of federal assistance programs have been put in place to assist laid-off steelworkers and their families.

    Last June, U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin announced a number of federal programs designed to aid steelworkers facing unemployment.
    Among these benefits is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.
    While many steelworkers have already taken advantage of the program, for those who have not yet applied, time is running out.
    The deadline for applying for the TAA program is 26 weeks after being laid off.
    For many of the steelworkers laid off last summer, that deadline is in December.
    The TAA program provides financial benefits and job resources to U.S. workers who have lost jobs due to increased imports or foreign production.
    As part of the TAA program, steelworkers are also eligible for the Health Care Tax Credit (HCTC).
    Workers, and retirees, who take advantage of the HCTC will be able to access more affordable health insurance benefits.
    Participants in the program send a portion of their monthly insurance premium directly to the HCTC program. Once this payment is received, the HCTC program pays the rest of the premium before sending it on to the insurance company.
    Other TAA benefits include job training, relocation assistance and extended unemployment benefits.
    For Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, the importance of informing steelworkers about these benefits can not be understated.
    In a press release last week, Kamenetz noted, “We do not want any steelworkers to miss out on federal benefits because they missed a critical application deadline.”
    For Dundalk-area steel-
workers seeking assistance, more information can be found at the Eastpoint Workforce Development Center, 7930 Eastern Blvd., next to the Goodwill.
    A special unit dedicated solely to assisting former RG Steel employees has been set up at the Workforce Development Center.
    The program, supported by $1.4 million in federal funding, will offer career assistance, training and tuition assistance for workers hoping to find a new career.
    In the meantime, new steel mill owners Hilco and ELT have not given up on finding a new steelmaker to return the mill to production.
    In October, the new owners announced plans to place the mill back up for sale.
    Bids will be accepted until Dec. 21. If necessary, an auction will be held on Jan. 3.
    So far, however, there has been no word of any potential buyers interested in restarting steel production at the facility.
    In the meantime, laid-off steelworkers can only watch, wait and hope.
    For more information on applying for federal benefits, including the TAA program, call 410-288-9050, visit the Eastpoint Workforce Development Center or visit www.baltimorecountymd.gov/steel.