Actors’ Equity Association Releases Statement in Response to New York State Budget Deal

Actors’ Equity Association, the national union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and theater managers, released a statement in response to a budget deal being reached in New York.

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

“We are so grateful to New York State Legislators, especially Assemblyman Kevin A. Cahill and Senators Liz Krueger and Robert Jackson, for working with us to improve the COBRA grant program for New Yorkers,” said Kate Shindle, president of the Actors’ Equity Association. . “Equity members are earning our health insurance one work week at a time, and employment is still well below pre-pandemic levels. This grant will not only save actors and managers from losing their health insurance and having to look elsewhere; most importantly, Equity members coverage earns far better support than most plans when we work — 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 face insecurity and fear of being let down by their insurer during a global health crisis.”

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

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

Background: While the union has long supported universal federal health care coverage, during the pandemic Equity has advocated for a full federal COBRA grant since April 2020, which was first passed in the American Rescue Plan Act. The union has also focused its efforts on the New York State grant, which will continue to significantly reduce the cost of COBRA for members in the arts and entertainment industry.

Andrew B. Reiter