Workers laid off from a Smithfield factory will receive extra education benefits from the federal government.
TT Electronics, on U.S. 70 Business just east of town, is closing. The shutdown began in December, when part of the plant shuttered its doors, and layoffs will continue until the last employees are let go at year’s end, said Joanne Hair, who works in accounts payable.
But employees can now benefit from Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA, a federal program that channels job-training and other dollars through the N.C. Department of Commerce. The program helps employees who lost their jobs or had their hours reduced because their employer was either hurt by imports or shifted production to another country.
TT Electronics had to apply for the benefits for its employees. The Department of Commerce said yes earlier this month.
“It’s great,” said Bobby Whitfield, manufacturing manager. “Any benefits we can get for the employees is a good thing.”
Under TAA, the federal government will pay for up to 30 months of a training program for displaced workers. Also, the unemployed can get money for their job search and to relocate if their new job requires them to move.
Workers 50 and older can ask for a different kind of help if they aren’t interested in training for a new skill. They can receive money for retraining, designed to help them get a similar job in the same field.
TT Electronics, a global company, is moving Smithfield production to plants in Ohio and Mexico, Hair said.
Half of the plant produced car parts, such as cables and harnesses, Hair said. That production line shut down Dec. 6, costing more than 50 people their jobs.
The other half makes resistors, and those operations will cease by September, costing another 30 jobs. A few managers will stick around until the end of the year to close out the books, Hair said.
Hair said the TAA benefits will be good for the plant’s workers. “However, we have a lot of people here that are probably retirement age and will probably not go for that,” she said. “But the (younger) ones, there’s a few here that will check into it.”
Hair is 66 and has worked at the plant for 25 years. She will look into job-training opportunities but probably won’t take advantage of them. “The thing of it is, it would be hard finding a job making the money that we make now,” Hair said.
“If I could get a full-time job, because I don’t want to stay at home, I would like to work a few more years,” Hair said. Instead, she and many of her coworkers will likely search for part-time jobs. “Because it would be hard, very hard, to get a full-time position now with the economy the way it is,” Hair said.
Shallcross Manufacturing Co. opened what is now TT Electronics in 1958 after moving operations from Pennsylvania.