09.16.2011 0

Ex-Solyndra employees cash-in on TAA benefits

IBD follows up on story first broken by NetRightDaily.com:

Ex-employees of the failed solar panel company Solyndra have applied for aid under the federal government’s Trade Adjustment Assistance program, the Labor Department has confirmed.

If approved, the employees of what was once touted as a leading exemplar of the White House’s green jobs program will be eligible for more federal funds to enable them to be retrained for other jobs.

It would be an ironic coda to the saga of Solyndra, which manufactured solar panels and received $527 million in loan guarantees from the Energy Department and praise from President Obama during visits to the firm’s California headquarters.

Now those green workers will be seeking the government’s help to find work again and not necessarily in the conservation jobs sector.

A source at the department confirmed the request for assistance was received on Sept. 2, just two days after the company filed bankruptcy, placing all 1,100 employees out of work.

“It is being evaluated,” the source told IBD, noting that most applications take 60 days for approval.

The Solyndra application could be complicated by the fact the company is the subject of a federal probe. FBI officers raided the firm’s headquarters earlier this month.

However, the source said that the probe was creating “no barriers” to the application process.*

The company’s failure was based in part on competition from China, which has been able to produce the panels at a far lower cost than U.S. manufacturers.

The request was made by a representative of the 1,100 ex-employees and covers all of them. The department estimates the aid will cost $13,000 per worker for the coming year.

The TAA program offers help to domestic workers who have lost their jobs due to the trade practices of foreign countries. The assistance includes job retraining, allowances for job searching, health benefits and up to 130 weeks of income support.

The program is up for reauthorization. Extending a TAA expansion has held up free trade agreement involving South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

The White House, acting on concerns of Big Labor allies, has demanded that a $575 million extension be included in the trade deals. Congressional Republicans have resisted, citing the program’s cost, but said they are willing to deal.

Funding for the Solyndra employees would come under the existing authorization. “Should the TAA extension be passed, the Solyndra employees would automatically be rolled into the new program,” the source said.

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