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Lt. Gov Roberts Asks Federal Labor Secretary to Help Rhode Islanders Who Are Out of Work Due to Business Closings

Requests New COBRA Benefits to Include Rhode Islanders Laid Off When Their Companies Closed

PROVIDENCE— Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts asked the federal government today to extend the new COBRA assistance program to include a group of recently laid-off Rhode Islanders who may not currently be eligible for the subsidy.

Lt. Gov. Roberts wrote to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis seeking help for Rhode Islanders out of work due to a business closing. Roberts asked the Secretary to include these workers in the 65% reduction to the health insurance premiums that are now available for many other laid off Rhode Islanders. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) signed last month by President Obama, provides a 65% subsidy for the cost of COBRA coverage for workers, and their families, who have lost their jobs since September 2008. The problem the Lt. Gov. is working to solve is that some Rhode Islanders who lost jobs because their companies closed, while covered under the state’s “mini-COBRA” provision, may not be eligible for the new, federal subsidy.

“This program is absolutely necessary to stem the loss of health insurance for out of work Rhode Islanders,” Roberts said. “We must make every attempt to work with our partners in federal government to ensure that this stimulus assistance reaches as many Rhode Islanders as possible.”

Lt. Gov. Roberts also announced this morning a new resource on her website that will guide recently unemployed Rhode Islanders through the details of the new COBRA assistance program from the federal government. At a news conference at Coastal Medical in East Providence, Roberts outlined the details of the resource, which provides information and answers to frequently asked questions about the new COBRA benefit.

Frequently asked questions about applying for the new COBRA benefit, and links to access additional information are posted on the Lt. Governor’s website at Lt. Gov. Roberts also encourages Rhode Islanders with questions about the new COBRA benefit to call her office, at 222-2371, for guidance.

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