Baucus, Tester announce aid for Smurfit-Stone employees

Senators Say Laid Off Workers Will Receive TAA Help

(Washington, D.C.) – Montana’s U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today announced that Smurfit-Stone employees laid off from the Missoula mill closure are eligible for federal assistance through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program Baucus championed earlier this year.

“I am deeply saddened by the news that Smurfit-Stone will be closing its doors in Missoula and many hard working Montanans will lose their jobs,” Baucus said.  “When a mill closes and good paying manufacturing jobs disappear, Montanans need all the help available to retool their skills to find new jobs.  That is why I’ve worked hard to strengthen the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program and I will work to ensure that laid off Smurfit-Stone employees receive all the federal assistance they are eligible for to see them through this difficult time.” 

“The closing of Smurfit-Stone is a painful blow to a lot of Montana families, and Max and I are working hard to see that folks whose lives are turned upside down by the closure have a chance to land on their feet,” Tester said.  “TAA is an important program to make sure people have the tools and training they need to find new opportunities and to remain a valuable part of Montana’s economy.”

Senator Baucus assisted Smurfit-Stone workers in filing a Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) petition to the Department of Labor on May 29, 2009.  This petition allows workers at the Containerboard Mill Division in Missoula who are laid off between May 26, 2008 to September 30, 2011 to be eligible for benefits under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.

Tester also worked closely with Smurfit-Stone and its employees to secure TAA funding in order to “open new doors” for workers who lose their jobs.

TAA benefits include unemployment insurance, job training, job search and relocation allowances and a health care tax credit.  Many of the Smurfit-Stone workers, including contract workers, janitorial and security staff, were certified for TAA on September 30, 2009. 

Senator Baucus led the effort to strengthen TAA benefits to ensure robust unemployment aid would be available to Montanans affected by plant closures in today’s struggling economy. 

This year, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Baucus spearheaded the most comprehensive expansion and overhaul of the TAA program since 1974, when the program was established.  The Jobs Bill included a new and updated TAA program that makes it easier for eligible workers to obtain benefits.  It improves access to training and healthcare and increases funds available for training programs by nearly 160 percent.  For those workers who need to take a lower-paying job right away and can’t take training, TAA gives them a new and improved wage insurance program. 

Moving forward, Senator Baucus pledged his help to aggressively look for new opportunities for the mill site as soon as it sells so we can get bring new jobs to the area.  Baucus and Tester will also be working with state, county and local officials to ensure these workers are provided the important information about the TAA program and all other benefits available. 

Smurfit-Stone employees should contact the Missoula Job Service Workforce Center located at 539 S. Third Street West or by calling (406) 728-7060.