New help for laid-off workers?

Obama stimulus plan may provide new benefits.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Published January 4, 2009 3:57PM (EST)

For the nearly two million Americans who lost their jobs in 2008, there may be some good news in President-elect Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan.

Saturday, Obama pitched the broad outlines of the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" to the American people in his weekly address, which included funding for everything from expanding renewable energy to repairing crumbling bridges to new school construction. A story in Sunday's New York Times suggests that there might be more direct help for struggling workers in that plan, as well.

Obama and Democratic leaders are reportedly considering extending unemployment compensation to part-time workers and allowing workers who lose jobs that didn't come with health insurance to be eligible to apply for Medicaid for the first time. They're also considering subsidizing employers' expenses for COBRA, the 22-year-old federal law which requires companies to temporarily continuing health insurance benefits to laid-off and retired workers, as well as their dependents. 

Although none of these proposals are finalized, they suggest that the economic stimulus package will involve not only money to shore up the nation's economy and create new jobs, but spending to immediately help out those suffering the most from its weakened state.

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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