On Saturday, December 19, 2009, the U.S. Senate:
1. Extended and expanded the COBRA subsidy program that was enacted under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA); and
2. Extended and expanded unemployment benefits through February 28, 2010.
These provisions were included in the Fiscal Year 2010 Department of Defense (DOD) Appropriations Act, which was passed by a vote of 88-10. The House had already passed this same spending bill on December 16, 2009 by a vote of 395-34. The bill now goes to the President for his expected signature.
The COBRA subsidy program extension in the DOD bill (page 153) would:
- Expand the ARRA’s COBRA premium subsidy period from nine to 15 months;
- Change the end date for eligibility for the subsidy from December 31, 2009, to February 28, 2010;
- Provide a retroactive period of 60 days (commences upon enactment) for payment of premiums for eligible individuals whose subsidy period expired on November 30, 2009;
- Require a special notice outlining these changes within 60 days to all eligible individuals on COBRA on or after October 31, 2009, or those who are terminated after this date; and
- Clarify the original COBRA subsidy program, noting that eligibility and notice is based on the timing of the qualifying event
The DOD bill also provides an extension and expansion of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. These changes are summarized below.
- The period during which individuals may file applications for Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) is extended from the current end date of December 31, 2009 to February 28, 2010, and the period during which individuals may claim and be paid EUC is extended from May 31, 2010 to July 31, 2010.
- The period during which individuals may qualify for the Federal Additional Compensation (FAC), the extra $25 per weekly benefit amount on state and federal unemployment compensation, is extended from ending before January 1, 2010 to February 28, 2010, with payment provided during the phase out period for weeks ending June 30, 2010 to August 31, 2010.
- The period during which 100 percent federal reimbursement for weeks of regular federal extended benefit payments for states opting to trigger federal extended benefits based on the Total Unemployment Rate is extended from the current end date of January 1, 2010 to February 28, 2010, with the state option to continue the extended period from May 30, 2010 to July 31, 2010.
If you have questions about the COBRA or UI extensions, please contact SHRM's HR Knowledge Center.