Kirsten Gillibrand United States Senator for New York

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Gillibrand Fights To Extend Unemployment Insurance For Struggling New Yorkers

Extending Benefits Could Help Over 850,000 New Yorkers

January 25, 2010

Washington, D.C. – With the number of jobless claims and the cost of health insurance premiums on the rise, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today pushed for an extension to unemployment insurance benefits and the COBRA Premium Assistance Program through the end of the year. More than 850,000 New Yorkers are out of work -- with many relying on the assistance they receive from unemployment insurance benefits and the COBRA Premium Assistance Program. Without an extension, the benefits will expire on February 28, 2010.

“Unemployment benefits and the COBRA Premium Assistance Program have been vital for families across New York,” Senator Gillibrand said. “For many families, these two programs have provided their sole source of income, and their only way to afford health insurance. They can’t afford to be cut off now. We need to make sure we’re providing assistance for those hit hardest by this recession.”

Unemployment still tops double digits with over 850,000 New Yorkers out of work. In addition to losing their jobs, many of these individuals also lost health insurance coverage for themselves and their families. Across the nation, nearly 40 percent of the unemployed – more than 6.1 million people – have been out of work for six months or longer.

Unemployment benefits are a lifeline for families and individuals to meet basic needs as they look for new jobs and the COBRA Premium Assistance Program helps cover the unemployed while they are between jobs – offering families basic, affordable health insurance. 

On average, a monthly healthcare premium payment to cover a family costs $1,111 -- over 80 percent of the average unemployment check. In some states, the average unemployment check is less than the cost of a monthly health care plan premium. If the COBRA Premium Assistance Program is not extended, families across New York and across the United States will be unable to afford health care coverage.

Extending unemployment benefits would provide assistance to those who are still looking for jobs and give a lifeline to the unemployed as they battle to get back on track. The average duration of unemployment is now at 29.1 weeks -- with nearly 40 percent of the unemployed out of work for six months or longer, and with the jobless claims on the rise. Failure to extend unemployment insurance benefits and the COBRA Premium Assistance Program would set many New York families back when they can least afford it.

Senator Gillibrand joined a group of 17 Senators urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to pass legislation to make sure Americans still on the path to recovery continue getting the resources they need to get there.