Saturday, December 19, 2009

Senate Approves Unemployment, COBRA Extensions

The U.S. Senate, on an 88-10 vote, today approved the 2010 defense appropriations bills which also includes the temporary extension of jobless benefits and a government subsidy for COBRA health insurance premiums.

President Barack Obama, who supports the legislation, must now sign the law for the aid to the unemployed to take effect.

The much-awaited vote, which had been held up because of the debate over the health care package, came in a rare Saturday session for the Senate at about 5:30 a.m. today.

If signed by the President, the bill would continue several extensions of unemployment benefits through Feb. 28. An extra $25 a week payment approved by Congress earlier this year in the economic stimulus package also will be extended two months.

In addition, the bill  extend a 65% government subsidy on COBRA health insurance premiums from the current nine months to 15 months. People who get laid off over the next two months who have COBRA coverage through their companies also will be eligible for the subsidy.

Both the unemployment extension and COBRA subsidy were due to expire Dec. 31, which would have cut benefits to millions of jobless workers. Already thousands of people have lost the COBRA subsidy after exhausting the current nine months of benefits in November.  They will now be able to get the subsidy for six more months.
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