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New Laws Have Laid-Off Virginia Workers Covered

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May 4, 2009

Richmond - Some new laws have many laid-off Virginia workers covered for medical insurance. Federal law now allows workers who've lost their job from September 2008 through the end of this year to extend their health care benefits. And a new law in Virginia extends the opportunity to nearly all workers who have recently become unemployed, even those who were working for small businesses.

The federal law covering employees' extension of health insurance benefits is commonly known as COBRA. Jill Hanken is a lawyer advocate in Richmond. She says that, in addition to the opportunity to continue care, there's also federal stimulus money to help cover the cost.

"The new stimulus package provides a federal subsidy equal to 65 percent of the cost of COBRA premiums, which is going to make COBRA a lot more affordable to people who've lost their jobs."

Hanken adds that all workers who have lost their jobs involuntarily should receive notices from their employers offering the new benefit.

She says the Virginia legislature voted to extend benefits to cover people previously employed by small businesses with 20 workers or fewer - greatly expanding the number of people helped by the federal stimulus package.

"The subsidy will cover people who've lost their jobs all the way back to September first of 2008 and will continue to help people who involuntary lose their jobs through the end of this year."

Virginia's unemployment rate went up slightly in March 2009, to 6.8 percent, in preliminary numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA