Health Care and Jobless Benefits Jeopardized
According to the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, Congress left Washington for its Memorial Day recess with unfinished business that could jeopardize jobless benefits for thousands of people in Virginia.
Once again, the Institute notes, federal stimulus job benefits were allowed to expire.
Cassidy: Leaving 18,200 of Virginia’s long-term jobless families without federal aid by the month.
Michael Cassidy is President and CEO of the Commonwealth Institute.
Cassidy: They also failed to extend increased federal Medicaid funding, which leaves a hole in Virginia’s budget that will result in many harmful cuts to healthcare and social services across the state.
Congress reconvenes today.
Cassidy: We, along with other advocates in the state, hope that the Senate can immediately continue the unemployment insurance extension, and the increased federal Medicaid funding, through November, so that we can restore healthcare benefits for an estimated 2400 Virginia workers who will otherwise be dropped with these actions.
Cassidy calls this a defining moment for Virginia’s Senators and members of Congress. With high unemployment, he says, now is the time to strengthen critical safety net programs, not to cut them.
Cassidy: This could be, you’ve heard a lot of concerns about deficit problems being why we can’t extend these key safety-net programs. The distinction is, of course, the difference between our short-term deficit problems resulting from the recession and the need to provide key economic stimulus and safety net assistance versus our country’s long-term deficit problems, which clearly have to be addressed and managed in a structured and systematic way.
The key problem, he says, is…
Cassidy: Until the economic extension is in full swing and the unemployment rate is way down, jobs and protection of America’s families hardest hit by the recession should be our first priority and so we shouldn’t pull the plug on these critical benefits, which could send some shock waves through the State’s economy, which is struggling to recover.
Right now some 52,000 Virginians are collecting unemployment compensation.
Cassidy: Since the program began it has pumped over $750 million in federal benefits into those Virginian communities that are hardest hit by the recession. Plus, another $162 million has been banked to the programs boosting weekly benefits of an extra $25. If Congress fails to act, an estimated 2467 workers in Virginia per month could lose out on the 65% subsidy for their COBRA health benefits, the subsidy that allows them to continue healthcare benefits even if they’ve lost their coverage through losing their job. So there’s a lot at stake here, in terms of folks who are really struggling in light of the difficult economy to make ends meet.
Nationally, Cassidy pointed out, there is only one job for every 5.6 unemployed Americans. He added that while the budget of course needs to be balanced, now is not the time to do that, and not, he says, on the backs of those hit hardest.
Cassidy: This is an especially dangerous and misplaced precedent for us to be eliminating things like subsidized COBRA benefits for the unemployed. I mean, Congress just fought a long battle to provide health insurance to all the uninsured in this country and now the House has pulled that safety net out from under a number of them with this failure to extend those health benefits for those who’ve lost their jobs.
Learn more on line at www.TheCommonwealthInstitute.org.
John Ogle, WCVE News.