Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance (ATAA)
Questions and Answers
1. Q: Are ATAA benefits taxable income?
A: Yes. ATAA wage subsidies are taxable income. You will need to issue a 1099 to recipients of the ATAA payments.
2. Q: Are pensions deductible from ATAA benefits, as with Unemployment Insurance (UI) payments?
A: No. The Trade Act of 1974, as amended, did not direct that pensions be included in the calculation of the ATAA wage subsidy.
3. Q: How do state workforce agencies (SWAs) determine whether to deduct court- ordered child support payments from ATAA payments?
A: ATAA payments are to be treated in the same manner as trade readjustment allowances (TRA). State laws regarding deductions of payments from UI and TRA must follow the Social Security Act (SSA). SSA Section 303(e)(1) defines “child support obligations” as “only includ[ing] obligations which are being enforced pursuant to a plan described in Section 454 of this Act which has been approved by the Secretary of Health and Human Services under part B of title IV of this Act.” It therefore does not permit deductions for alimony or for child support in general, as provided by 20 CFR 617.55(h)(2), but only for child support obligations of the type specified. Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 45-89 (55 Fed. Reg. 1886 (1990)) explained in detail the deductions permitted under SSA Section 303(e)(2).
4. Q: Must the individual file for a UI claim in order to be eligible for ATAA? Does the worker have to be eligible for UI to be eligible for ATAA?
A: No. There is no provision in the Trade Act or TEGL 2-03 that requires an individual to apply for UI in order to be eligible for the ATAA program. Nor is there a provision that requires an individual to be eligible for UI. ATAA and UI are statutorily separate programs. Eligibility for neither program is dependent on the other program.
5. Q: Can the ATAA wage subsidy be considered as income for the purpose of establishing eligibility for future UI claims?
A: The Trade Act does not direct that wage subsidies be reported as “wages” for UI purposes. However, UI eligibility is governed by state law. Therefore, states may consult their own UI law to determine if ATAA meets the state definition of wages for UI purposes.
6. Q: How should the SWA administer recovery of UI overpayments from ATAA, or recovery of ATAA payments from UI?
A: ATAA payments are to be treated in the same manner as trade readjustment allowances (TRA). Recovery of a state UI overpayment from ATAA is governed by SSA Section 303(g)(2), requiring an agreement with the Department before the state may offset ATAA to recover the state UI overpayment. Further, if the state does have such an agreement with the Department, there is no limit on the amount of the offset from ATAA.
Section 243(a)(2) of the Trade Act limits each deduction from state UI to recover a TAA or ATAA overpayment to a maximum of 50% of the payment. However, that applies only to the offset of state UI to recover a TAA or ATAA overpayment. It does not apply to the offset of TAA or ATAA to recover a state UI overpayment.
7. Q: Does the ATAA program in any way alter UI rules in a state?
A: No. ATAA does not change any UI rules. UI must still be administered in accordance with established instructions. A person receiving ATAA has returned to work and should be treated like anyone else returning to work. UI payments are not part of the calculation to determine the ATAA wage subsidy.
8. Q: If an ATAA recipient is laid off, can he/she reopen a UI claim that still has an unexpired benefit year? Does the state issue a written determination to the individual suspending ATAA until he/she is reemployed?
A. The worker may reopen his/her UI claim that still has an unexpired benefit year or file a new claim if the benefit year has ended in accordance with state UI law. In accordance with TEGL 2-03, Section F, a determination suspending the ATAA benefit is required if the individual attempts to claim ATAA benefits after separation. If the worker is reemployed, he/she may file a new ATAA application.
9. Q: Will the state UI office have the responsibility for administering the wage subsidy for ATAA recipients as they do for TRA recipients?
A: States have the choice of where they want to locate the responsibility. However, the organizational placement of this payment by the state must meet Governmental Accounting Standards Board requirements.
10. Q: Do UI laws apply to ATAA recipients?
A. No. An ATAA recipient is not eligible for UI because he/she is employed on a full-time basis as defined by state law in the state the worker is employed. Unless otherwise specified in an official advisory or regulation, no UI-related issue should influence the continued receipt of the wage subsidy. If, however, the ATAA recipient becomes unemployed and files for UI, then the state UI law would be applied to any potential UI entitlement.
11. Q: Is an ATAA recipient eligible for a new UI claim once the current benefit year expires?
A: No. An ATAA participant is not eligible for UI unless he/she becomes unemployed, at which time he/she becomes ineligible for ATAA.
12. Q: Where does the ATAA wage subsidy fit into the priority of payments, i.e., UI, Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation (TEUC), basic TRA, additional TRA, and remedial TRA?
A: ATAA does not fit into this priority of payments because it is not related to UI. UI and ATAA are two separate programs that operate independently. UI is for individuals who are unemployed; ATAA is for individuals who are employed.
13. Q: Must re-employment for ATAA purposes be “UI covered” employment?
A: No. Full-time employment need not be UI covered employment. However, since Section 246 of the Trade Act requires that a participant in ATAA must be employed full-time as defined by state law, the state workforce agency (SWA) must determine if the employment (including self-employment) obtained by the potential ATAA recipient meets the definition of full-time employment under the applicable state law.
14. Q: Can self-employment or work involving wages plus commission or piece work be considered full-time employment for the purpose of establishing ATAA eligibility?
A: Yes. Self-employment, work involving wages plus commission, or piece work can be considered full-time employment for the purpose of establishing ATAA eligibility if such employment meets the definition of full-time employment as defined by the state.
15. Q: If self-employment, work involving wages plus commission, or piece work qualify as reemployment, how would the income derived from these types of employment be used in calculating the ATAA wage subsidy?
A: The SWA should determine an approximation of the hourly wage and apply the approximation when calculating the wage subsidy in accordance with procedures established in TEGL 2-03, Section G.
16. Q: If a worker applying for ATAA is hired by a temporary agency for a two-week period, should the SWA deny ATAA benefits because it is a short-term temporary assignment?
A: No. The ATAA program addresses full-time employment without distinction between temporary and permanent employment. This puts additional responsibility on the SWA caseworker who must inform the ATAA applicant that receipt of an ATAA wage subsidy gives up all future rights to TRA, job search allowances, and training. Since in this instance the temporary employment expires after two weeks, the worker needs to be advised that ATAA payments will cease at the end of the two weeks, as will eligibility for the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC).
17. Q: Are workers participating in on-the-job training (OJT) under TAA or WIA eligible for the ATAA program?
A: No. While such training is potentially consistent with state definitions of full-time employment, the federal government is already subsidizing a portion of the worker’s wages. Payment of the ATAA wage subsidy would essentially be “double dipping.” This is true whether funded by TAA, WIA, or any other federal training program. Moreover, if funded by TAA, participation in OJT training automatically precludes eligibility for ATAA.
However, if a participant in WIA-funded OJT (or any federally subsidized employment from any funding source except TAA) completes his/her training and obtains full-time unsubsidized employment before the end of the 26-week ATAA eligibility period, the individual could be eligible for an ATAA wage subsidy.
18. Q: In the event that an ATAA recipient’s hours are reduced to less than full-time, but he or she remains employed by the employer, does he or she lose ATAA benefits while working less than full-time?
A: Yes. Section 246 of the Trade Act requires that an individual be employed full-time as defined by state law. Therefore, any individual whose hours are reduced below full-time, as defined by state law, loses his/her ATAA benefits, including HCTC eligibility. It should also be noted that such an individual remains potentially eligible for ATAA for a period of up to two years from the date of qualifying reemployment, should such individual return to full-time work.
19. Q: Assume that an ATAA participant, who is employed full-time, is on unpaid leave for two days during a specific week. Would the individual be considered to be employed full-time during this week and eligible for an ATAA wage subsidy?
A: The state must look to state law to determine whether this meets the definition of full-time employment.
20. Q: Section F (Continuing Eligibility) of TEGL 2-03 states that “In the event of a period of unemployment, workers will need to complete a new Individual Application for ATAA upon reemployment.” If an employer has a regularly scheduled shutdown for one or two weeks, would the ATAA recipient have to reapply for the wage subsidy after the shutdown is complete or is reapplication necessary only when an individual is laid off and finds new employment?
A: The state must look to state law to determine whether this meets the definition of full-time employment. If it is not inconsistent with state law, in cases where the workers are paid their regular wage during the period of the shutdown, this does not disqualify them from receiving ATAA. As indicated in Section F (Continuing Eligibility) of TEGL 2-03, not receiving wages for one full week is considered unemployment and makes a worker ineligible for ATAA. Moreover, during a regularly scheduled shut-down for a two-week period where a worker is not receiving wages, the worker may be eligible for UI for that two-week period. In any case, the worker would not be eligible for ATAA during this period unless wages were being paid during this period by the employer.
21. Q: If a person receiving an ATAA wage subsidy quits or is fired from his/her job, and finds another job, can he/she resume receiving the ATAA payment?
A: Yes. In accordance with TEGL 2-03, Section F, a worker can reapply for ATAA when he/she obtains subsequent employment for up to two years from the date of original reemployment.
22. Q: Are all wages and hours from all employment (including overtime) to be included in the calculation of the wage subsidy and the calculation of the annual reemployment wage to determine if the $50,000 limit is exceeded for determining ATAA eligibility?
A: As provided in TEGL 2-03, Section G, overtime wages are not included in the calculation of the annualized pre-separation or reemployment wage for determining eligibility for, and the amount of, the ATAA wage subsidy. Wages from all employment, excluding overtime pay, would be included in the annualized wage calculation for both the pre-separation wage and the reemployment wage.
23. Q: If a worker had a full- and part-time job and is laid off from the full-time position due to foreign trade, would his/her part-time wages be included in the formula for calculating pre-separation wages?
A: Yes. Wages from all employment, full- or part-time, are taken into account when calculating the ATAA wage subsidy.
24. Q: Why are full- and part-time jobs used to determine a worker’s annual wages for calculating an ATAA wage subsidy?
A: Section 246 of the Trade Act provides that the wage subsidy provides 50 percent of the difference between the wages received by the worker from reemployment and the wages received by the worker at the time of separation. The statute does not specify that the reemployment wages include only a single job or that the pre-separation wages are only those earned in the adversely affected employment.
25. Q: Why are overtime wages excluded from a worker’s annual wage calculation in determining his or her ATAA wage subsidy?
A: Overtime wages are excluded due to their sporadic nature and the difficulty of projecting the level of such wages. Further, it avoids placing the worker in the awkward position of choosing whether to accept overtime hours where he/she either risks losing the ATAA wage subsidy or his/her job. Such a position is contrary to sound business-friendly practice.
26. Q: TEGL 2-03 does not permit telephone certification for establishing continuing eligibility. Documentation of employment, hours and wages must be provided at each continuing eligibility verification session. Does this requirement apply in those instances where the employer telephones with the necessary verification information and the results of that call are documented by state or local TAA staff?
A: Yes. The requirement for documentation of employment, hours, and wages provides hard evidence of the worker’s employment and serves as a deterrent to fraud. However, the worker could send a copy of his/her check stub or a letter from the employer by mail or fax if unable to physically visit the state office.
Amount and Frequency of Payments
27. Q: TEGL 2-03 requires that the ATAA recipient will receive at least a minimum monthly payment. Can you explain what this means?
A: It means that the ATAA wage subsidy may be paid on a weekly, biweekly, or other payment frequency but at a minimum must be paid monthly. This allows the state to determine what type of payment frequency is most compatible with the systems it currently uses to pay benefits to recipients. Having at least a monthly payment frequency does not mean that the worker must receive some minimum amount each month.
28. Q: Is there a minimum or maximum weekly benefit amount that can be paid?
A: No. The benefit amount is based on the calculation of the ATAA wage subsidy provided in TEGL 2-03 and the frequency of the payment.
29. Q: Can the amount of the ATAA wage subsidy fluctuate during the course of the two- year eligibility period?
A: Yes. The amount of the ATAA wage subsidy may vary week by week based on a change in the hours paid, or hourly wage or wage approximation. The SWA must recalculate the amount of the ATAA wage subsidy every time the individual returns for the monthly (or more frequent) verification of continuing eligibility in accordance with TEGL 2-03, Section G.
30. Q: In calculating an individual’s ATAA payment, how does the SWA define the payable period for an ATAA wage subsidy?
A: In accordance with TEGL 2-03, Section G, the payable period is at the option of the state but in no case should it be less frequently than monthly.
31. Q: How do severance pay and wages in lieu of layoff notice (e.g., 60 day WARN notice or other employer separation notice) affect the ATAA wage subsidy calculation?
A: Severance pay and wages in lieu of layoff notice have no effect on the ATAA wage subsidy because the ATAA calculation should be based on the hourly wage and hours worked during the last full week of employment as described in TEGL 2-03, Section G. Wages received as severance or in lieu of layoff notice should not be part of the calculation.
32. Q: What documentation is acceptable for the purposes of establishing both initial and continuing eligibility?
A: Depending on the specific eligibility criterion, documentation may include materials such as a drivers license, birth certificate, copy of job offer letter, check stub, document referring to date of qualifying separation, supporting statement from the employer, annual earnings statements, W-2 forms, and/or other official documentation.
33. Q: If a worker earned $50 per hour in pre-separation employment, and later takes a job at XYZ Corporation at $10 an hour, would the worker receive an ATAA wage subsidy of $800 per week?
A: Yes, but in this example the worker will reach the $10,000 wage subsidy limit in approximately 12 weeks, assuming a 40-hour week in both the pre-separation employment and reemployment. There is an incentive for workers to take a job at wages as close to their pre-separation wage as possible in order to prolong the period in which they receive the ATAA wage subsidy and correspondingly prolong eligibility for HCTC.
34. Q: Do SWAs need to keep a computerized record of all information needed to calculate and pay an ATAA wage subsidy or can manual methods be utilized?
A: The state has the option to maintain computerized or manual record systems.
35. Q: What is the funding source for ATAA in Fiscal Year (FY) 2004 and are changes expected for FY 2005?
funding source for ATAA wage subsidies is the Federal Unemployment Benefit
Account (FUBA). The administration of
ATAA wage subsidies will be paid from the State Unemployment Insurance and
Employment Service Operations (SUIESO) account.
Instructions for accessing the SUIESO account for administrative
purposes were transmitted to the states in Unemployment Insurance Program
Letter (UIPL) 14-04 on
For FY 2004, the total amount available for the wage subsidy program is
$10 million. The FY 2005 budget requests an increased amount for the wage subsidy program. This request is pending congressional action and has not been approved.
36. Q: Since the impact date is a year before the petition date, some workers who are certified eligible to apply for ATAA will have been separated as much as a year before the certification and will have become reemployed well before the certification is issued. In these cases, if workers apply and qualify for ATAA, can they receive a retroactive payment for the period they were employed prior to the date of ATAA certification? Could these workers receive a lump-sum payment of $10,000 if the difference between pre-separation and reemployment wages were sufficient to warrant such a payment? Would this also apply to workers who do not apply for the subsidy until the end of the eligibility period?
A: TEGL 2-03, Section E, provides that the two year eligibility period for receiving ATAA payments begins with the first day of the ATAA qualifying reemployment and that the individual has two years from that date to apply. This means that the payments may be made retroactively if the worker has obtained qualifying reemployment within 26 weeks of layoff and later applies for the program. In addition, a lump-sum payment is possible if the difference between pre-separation and reemployment wages were sufficient to warrant such a payment.
37. Q: What is the rationale for allowing workers two years from their date of qualifying reemployment to file their application for ATAA?
A: TEGL 2-03, Section E, states that the application for ATAA must be filed within two years of the first day of qualifying reemployment. This parallels Section 246 of the TAA Reform Act of 2002, which provides that the ATAA wage subsidy may be paid over a two-year period.
38. Q: Must a worker be working or just offered full-time work within 26 weeks of their date of separation to be eligible for an ATAA wage subsidy?
A: TEGL 2-03, Section E, states that the worker must obtain reemployment by the last day of the 26th week after the worker’s qualifying separation from TAA/ATAA certified employment. This means that the worker’s first day of employment must have occurred during the 26-week period.
39. Q: ATAA eligibility requires that the worker may not return to similar work for the employer from whom he/she separated. Does the state define “similar” work?
A: Yes. When an ATAA applicant accepts work with their layoff employer at a different location, the state is responsible for determining whether the work is similar. In addition, the individual cannot return to the division/facility from which he/she was separated, even if the work is not similar.
40. Q: If a worker applies for ATAA and is denied eligibility because annual earnings are in excess of $50,000, can the worker reapply and be found eligible for ATAA if he/she is separated from this job (voluntarily or otherwise) and finds new employment at less than $50,000?
A: If the individual is issued a determination denying eligibility for an ATAA wage subsidy based on the first reemployment because the reemployment did not meet the conditions to qualify for an ATAA wage subsidy, and if the individual is subsequently separated and finds a new job that does meet the conditions for ATAA, then a new ATAA application will have to be submitted. In this case, since the first reemployment did not qualify the individual for ATAA it cannot be used to establish qualifying reemployment within 26 weeks. Therefore, the subsequent full-time employment must occur within the 26 weeks from the qualifying separation to be considered for the ATAA subsidy.
41. Q: In the event a worker applies for ATAA and is denied by virtue of being 49 years old, would the worker qualify when he/she turns 50 and is still reemployed?
A: TEGL 2-03, Section E, requires that an individual be 50 years of age at the time of reemployment to be considered for the ATAA wage subsidy. Therefore, a worker denied by virtue of being 49 years old would not qualify if he/she turns 50 and is still reemployed in the same job. However, in the unusual circumstance that the worker becomes separated from the initial reemployment and is reemployed again within 26 weeks from his/her qualifying separation and has turned 50, he/she may be eligible for the ATAA wage subsidy at that time.
42. Q: If a worker exhausts his/her UI entitlement prior to the 26-week deadline for obtaining reemployment for ATAA purposes, can that worker receive TRA without losing all future eligibility for ATAA?
A: Yes. TEGL 2-03, Section E, specifies that workers give up their right to ATAA when they receive TAA-approved training. If the worker has exhausted his/her UI eligibility associated with the first benefit period at the time of layoff, it is possible to receive TRA benefits with a training waiver during the 26 weeks between layoff and obtaining qualifying reemployment for ATAA. Receipt of TRA will not void their right to choose ATAA, not will receipt of a job search allowance.
43. Q: Does participation in WIA training prior to or after TAA certification exclude the worker from eligibility for the ATAA program?
A: WIA training that is not TAA-approved does not disqualify someone from receiving the ATAA wage subsidy. TEGL 2-03, Section E, specifies that TAA-approved training does disqualify an individual from receiving the ATAA wage subsidy.
44. Q: What documentation is necessary to meet the requirement in TEGL 2-03 that a worker must choose between TAA and ATAA participation?
A: While Section E of TEGL 2-03 does not specify a requirement for documenting a worker’s choice between TAA and ATAA, it does indicate that receipt of the first ATAA wage subsidy or enrollment in training will attest to this choice. However, states are free to establish their own documentation requirements for this purpose.
45. Q: Is it true that workers do not give up rights to TAA benefits until they receive the first ATAA payment?
46. Q: For ATAA purposes, when determining whether the worker group possesses “skills that are not easily transferable” to other employment, will the determination address the skills of all workers at the affected firm, only the separated workers, all workers over age 50, or only separated workers over the age of 50?
A: The determination addresses the skills of the petitioning worker group, which may include individuals both above and below age 50.
47. Q: What does “skills that are not easily transferable” mean?
A: “Skills that are not easily transferable” refer to a set of skills that do not enable a worker to quickly obtain employment in a similar kind of work (e.g., a job at an equal or higher wage and skill level in the local labor market).
48. Q: May petitioners provide additional documentation in support of the TAA or ATAA petition?
A: Yes. Petitioners may, and are encouraged to, submit documentation that supports the specific criteria for TAA and/or ATAA certification with their petition.
49. Q: Is there a mechanism to add a request for ATAA certification to a petition that is already in process?
A: Yes. A request for ATAA certification can be made on a petition that has been received but is still under investigation. In such cases, the petitioner(s) must withdraw the petition and resubmit it with a request for ATAA certification because the Trade Act requires that an ATAA program request be made at the time the petition is filed. This would, however, change the impact date and may lead to workers laid-off more than one year prior to the date of the resubmitted petition being ineligible for TAA or ATAA certification.
50. Q: Is there a mechanism to review a TAA certification in order to add an ATAA certification where a request for ATAA was not indicated on the original petition?
A: No. TEGL 2-03 provides that a request for ATAA consideration must be made at the time the petition is filed and is consistent with Section 246 of the Trade Act, as amended.
51. Q: What are the responsibilities of the agent state and liable state in administering the ATAA program?
A: For ATAA purposes, the liable/agent state relationship applies only when a worker loses a job in one state, becomes reemployed in another, and is eligible for the ATAA wage subsidy. Under the ATAA program, the liable state is the same as the liable state for the regular TAA program, as described in 20 CFR 617.26(a). In most cases, the liable state is the state where the worker was working and separated from employment. The agent state is the state in which the worker is reemployed. The distinction has nothing to do with the state where the worker resides.
The responsibilities of the liable state include making all determinations of ATAA individual eligibility, issuing all redeterminations of individual eligibility and decisions on appeal, making the ATAA wage subsidy payments, paying relocation allowances, verifying employment, transmitting names of “eligible ATAA recipients” to the HCTC program office in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and completing all reports.
The responsibilities of the agent state are cooperating fully with the liable state and assisting the liable state in carrying out its activities and functions. The definition of full-time work for all ATAA participants working in the state is the responsibility of the agent state. Other responsibilities include providing interstate ATAA applicants with ATAA program information, assisting with filing applications, gathering information and forwarding it to the liable state, and providing the liable state with information needed to make determinations of ATAA individual eligibility initially and on appeal.
Section 426 of the Trade Act specifies that the determination of full-time is based on the state law of the state where the individual is employed. Therefore, as indicated by the above, the liable state will have to make ATAA eligibility determinations based on the agent state’s law. There will be instances where the agent state and liable state have different definitions of full-time employment. In these cases, the liable state will find it necessary to use the agent state’s definition of full-time employment in making the eligibility determination for the ATAA program.
52. Q: If a worker loses eligibility for ATAA due to separation from employment, does the worker lose HCTC eligibility?
A: Yes. The person is only eligible for HCTC for any month in which he/she received an ATAA payment. However, Section 35 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, provides eligibility for a grace period of one calendar month after the month in which the worker stops receiving the ATAA wage subsidy.
53. Q: Does receipt of only a relocation allowance under the ATAA program make the individual worker an “eligible ATAA recipient” for HCTC purposes for that month?
A: No. The definition of an “eligible ATAA recipient” provided in Section 35 of the Internal Revenue Code is an individual receiving the wage subsidy for that month.
54. Q: Are there reasons where it would be appropriate to issue training waivers to ATAA-eligible individuals?
A: Workers who are interested in ATAA but do not yet have qualifying reemployment may wish to preserve their option to choose between TAA and ATAA while they search for ATAA-qualifying reemployment, or they may need to access the HCTC. In cases where one of the waver criteria is met, a waiver could be used to establish HCTC eligibility or to preserve the worker’s option to access regular TAA benefits if he/she is unable to secure appropriate ATAA-qualifying reemployment.
Section E of TEGL 2-03 describes the various options available in granting waivers for these purposes. The use of waivers should be evaluated carefully and should also be consistent with guidance contained in TEGL 11-02 and 11-02, Change 1.