By KEN de la BASTIDE, Kokomo  Tribune staff writer

Local Chrysler workers displaced as a result of foreign imports or shifts in production out of the U.S. are now eligible to receive benefits through the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

The U.S. Department of Labor ruled Dec. 15 that certain employees at the three Kokomo transmission plants and the casting plant are eligible for assistance under the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.

The ruling applies to workers totally or partially separated from employment on or after Nov. 14, 2007, and through Dec. 15, 2010. The workers produced aluminum transmissions, cases and component parts.

The TAA program provides benefits to help unemployed workers prepare for and obtain suitable employment. They may be eligible for a variety of re-employment services, job search and relocation allowances and training.

Workers may also be eligible for weekly trade re-adjustment allowances payable to eligible workers following the exhaustion of unemployment benefits.

John Ruckleshaus, spokesman for Indiana Workforce Development said eligible employees can apply at a local WorkOne Center.

"There could be group sessions to explain the available benefits and how to apply for assistance," Ruckleshaus said. "We push folks to the training aspects of the TAA program."

He said typically management or a group of workers will request the TAA certification from the Department of Labor. Both Chrysler management and the United Auto Workers sought the assistance for the workers.

Ruckleshaus said approximately 5,000 workers will be eligible but the exact number won't be known until they qualify for assistance.

The Department of Labor also issued certification for Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits for separated older works at the Kokomo facilities.

The Department of Labor found that a significant number of workers at the company age 50 and older possess skills that are not easily transferable and that competitive conditions within the industry are adverse.

Older workers have the option of choosing between regular TAA benefits or a wage subsidy of 50 percent of the difference between their new salary and old salary up to $10,000.

Ruckleshaus said the exact numbers eligible under the program won't be known until they qualify for benefits.

WorkOne Centers are located in Kokomo, Peru, Logansport, Monticello, Marion, Anderson and Lafayette.

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