Press Release

Weingarten and Mulgrew Call on Federal Government to Help Unemployed Workers and Families of Deceased Workers During Pandemic

Union Leaders Praise Biden’s Recommendation, Urge Congress to Include Government Coverage of COBRA Payments in Next Recovery Bill

For Release: 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Contact:

Oriana Korin
202-374-6103
Oriana.Korin@aft.org
Alison Gendar
agendar@uft.org

NEW YORK—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to work directly with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on making sure the full cost of COBRA premiums are covered by the federal government in the next recovery bill.

The leaders praised former Vice President and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s call for federal assistance to support workers who have lost their jobs, as well as families of workers whose lives have been lost in the pandemic, but who still rely on the health coverage of the deceased and are saddled with sky-high monthly COBRA payments in order to maintain their healthcare coverage.

The UFT, which is the largest affiliate of the AFT, has already lost more than 40 members during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the AFT and the UFT have prioritized protecting the safety and health of their communities, particularly the educators, classroom assistants and other school personnel, and the public employees and healthcare members whose own health, lives and jobs are now jeopardized as a result of the pandemic. 

Weingarten said:

“We are seeing a terrible loss of life as well as loss of employment as a result of this pandemic. The last thing a family needs to worry about right is how to afford a COBRA payment, when they’re already struggling to pay for housing and food, and now burials. Healthcare should always be a right—that’s true tenfold in this global health crisis. No one should forgo care because they’re worried the bill for that care will bankrupt them, and no one should lose their coverage and drown in COBRA premiums because of the staggering unemployment this crisis has caused, or because a family member has just died from COVID-19. This proposal to have the government take over COBRA costs is one important way to help families at a time of catastrophic crisis. We are grateful Joe Biden has called for this federal assistance and hope it can be a bipartisan solution to the devastation COVID-19 has caused for so many families.”

Mulgrew said:

"Joe Biden’s proposal is critical right now. The pandemic has already left dozens of families of UFT members without a major breadwinner. At the same time, tens of thousands of New Yorkers are now out of work. The federal government needs to step in to ensure that deaths or job losses don’t also mean the loss of family medical coverage."

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.