For immediate release
February 25, 2021
As Congress debates the next urgently needed relief package, the health of millions of Americans is at stake. For workers across the United States, COVID-19 has created a triple crisis of the pandemic itself, unprecedented layoffs, and resulting loss of employer-based health insurance. 100% coverage of continuation health care through COBRA is critical to 13 million Americans who have lost health insurance as a result of being laid off during the pandemic. UNITE HERE hospitality workers faced 98% layoffs at the peak of the shutdowns and more than 75% are still unemployed today.
In President Biden’s Rescue Plan, he proposed to cover 100% of COBRA costs, so that unemployed Americans could retain health insurance, but Democrats in the House have proposed to go against that promise, with only a commitment to cover 85% of those costs. Now, the only hope for the laid-off workers most in need is for Senate Democrats to back the Biden plan in Senate legislation being drafted this week. UNITE HERE hospitality workers are taking action by calling their Senators to urge them to support 100% emergency coverage for COBRA premiums.
“100% COBRA is what President Biden wanted,” said UNITE HERE International Union President D. Taylor. “We disagree with the House’s decision to go to 85% because it will deprive the people most in need and others from getting health care. They simply can’t afford it.”
100% COBRA would provide life-changing assistance to millions of laid-off housekeepers, dishwashers and other Americans who have lost health insurance due to pandemic lay-offs.
Naika Torres, Line Cook at Eastern Connecticut State University said, “When I lost my health care, it wasn’t just me who was affected, it was my kids too. My son has a back injury, but his therapist said he couldn’t see him anymore after our insurance ran out. Monthly COBRA would cost $1,125 and I can’t afford it. I felt like I failed as a mom, because he was in serious pain but all I could do was give him Ibuprofen and IcyHot patches.”
During the presidential election, 1,700 laid-off hospitality workers knocked the doors of 3 million voters in four battleground states, making a critical difference in the results. Then UNITE HERE joined Stacey Abrams and others in Georgia to take back the Senate, knocking on over 1.5 million doors precisely because they believed Democrats were key to winning back stability in their lives, especially around health care.
The Senate has the opportunity to do the right thing for working families and pass 100% federal funding for COBRA extensions to protect laid-off workers’ health insurance.