Durbin Discusses COBRA Assistance And DACA With American Federation Of Teachers President Randi Weingarten

SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today discussed the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on teachers and students with Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).  Durbin discussed his letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) last week urging for the next COVID-19 relief package to include funding to allow people who lose their jobs to remain on their employers’ health plans through COBRA.

“This crisis has forced tens of millions of Americans to apply for unemployment insurance, but millions of them are also losing their employer-sponsored health insurance in the process.  It would be devastating for anyone to be without health insurance in America as we fight the spread of this virus, which is why I’m calling for the federal government to cover the costs of keeping people on their employer health plans for the duration of this pandemic,” Durbin said.

More than half of Americans get their health insurance through their employer. Since mid-March, about 22 million American workers have filed unemployment claims—experts estimate that, of these individuals, more than nine million were at high-risk of also having lost their health coverage.  It is further estimated that 12 to 35 million people may soon lose their health coverage as a result of this pandemic, depending on its duration.

Under current law, an individual can remain on their employer plan after being laid off, if they pay 100 percent of the premium costs themselves. Durbin is pushing to have the federal government pick up the full cost of those premiums for the duration of this national emergency.

Durbin also discussed his push to automatically extend work authorizations for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients and other impacted immigrants. The Center for American Progress estimates that 202,500 DACA recipients, including 11,400 from Illinois, are “essential critical infrastructure workers,” as defined by the Department of Homeland Security.  This includes 14,900 DACA teachers, 1,000 of them in Illinois.

“Additionally, AFT President Weingarten and I discussed the need to ensure that DACA recipients, thousands of whom are teachers, can continue their essential work without the fear of deportation in the midst of this pandemic. I will continue to press President Trump to use his executive authority to protect them,” Durbin said.