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Letter to the Senate on COBRA Benefits

June 11, 2010

Dear Senator:


As a follow-up to our letter of earlier this week urging support for the H.R. 4213 — the American Jobs, Closing Tax Loopholes, and Preventing Outsourcing Act, we would like to urge you to cosponsor and vote YES on an amendment to this important legislation by Senators Casey (D-PA) and Brown (D-OH) that would extend COBRA health benefits through November 2010.  Votes associated with these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress. 

H.R. 4213: 

  • Provides critical pension funding relief essential to help businesses stave off layoffs
  • Provides essential Medicaid funding (FMAP) relief for states to help ameliorate urgent budget crises that continues to weaken the economy
  • Extends unemployment benefits to help struggling families
  • Extends the deduction for educators’ out-of-pocket classroom supply expenses, and
  • Extends the TANF Emergency Fund.

Overall, this bill will help fund schools, ease financial burdens for educators paying for more and more school supplies for students, and help families survive during this economic crisis. 

We were deeply disappointed that the House stripped provisions to extend COBRA benefits from the bill.  Without an extension of these critical benefits, workers who lose their jobs after June 1 through no fault of their own will not qualify for help in paying their COBRA premiums.  The average monthly premiums will eat up almost 85 percent of the national average unemployment benefit, leaving many families in desperate circumstances.  In eleven states where unemployment benefits are particularly low, the maximum monthly unemployment check is actually less than the monthly average COBRA premium.

COBRA benefits are a lifeline for families struggling in this economic crisis.  Without a continued subsidy, many families will simply be unable to afford to continue their health benefits, creating greater stress and instability for them and their children. 

Again, we urge you to support the Casey-Brown amendment and to vote YES on passage of H.R. 4123.

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson                       
Director of Government Relations