New York -- Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, has issued a statement in response to New York reaching a budget agreement.  

Equity worked closely with lawmakers on the challenges our members face in retaining healthcare during the ongoing pandemic. The result is a budget that includes a renewal of the COBRA subsidy program for members of the arts sector with $2.4 million funding, an increase from last year, as well as improved terms of the program. 

“We are so grateful to New York State lawmakers, especially Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill and Senators Liz Krueger and Robert Jackson, for working with us to improve the COBRA subsidy program for New Yorkers,” said Kate Shindle, president of Actors’ Equity Association. “Equity members earn our health insurance one work week at a time, and employment is still far below pre-pandemic levels. This subsidy will not just prevent actors and stage managers from losing their health insurance and having to look elsewhere; critically, the coverage Equity members earn provides far better support than most plans when we are working - as we often do - in states where we don't live full time. We will also continue to push for universal health care so that no American has to confront the insecurity and fear of being dropped by their insurance provider during a global health crisis." 

In addition to the increased funding, the new COBRA program includes: 

  • An increase in the income eligibility threshold from about 200% FPL to 400% FPL. 
  • An increased subsidy reimbursement from 50% to 75% of the COBRA cost. 
  • The COBRA subsidy will now be available for various new tiers of coverage unions introduced during the pandemic 
  • Expanded access to the program for 12 months of coverage over 5 years. Previously, the program was capped at 12 months total lifetime access.

Background: While the union has long supported universal federal health care coverage, during the pandemic Equity has been advocating for a full federal COBRA subsidy since April 2020, which first passed in the American Rescue Plan Act. The union also focused its efforts on New York State’s subsidy, which will continue to dramatically lower the cost of COBRA for members of the arts and entertainment sector. 

ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA.  #EquityWorks

April 8, 2022