New York – Mary McColl, Executive Director of Actors' Equity Association, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, released the following statement following regarding the HEROES Act, which has now passed the U.S. House of Representatives, and includes a 100% COBRA subsidy for displaced workers. 

“For many of our members, a full COBRA subsidy will mean the difference between health insurance and no insurance,” said Mary McColl, Executive Director of Actors’ Equity Association. “Equity members can only earn insurance if they are working, and with the industry shut down, many have lost or are about to lose access to their union coverage. This bill’s provisions would cover insurance premiums, making their insurance plan affordable for them and their families. The Senate must act quickly on COBRA.” 

Background: During the 2008 financial crisis, the federal government offered COBRA subsidies to workers who were laid off through no fault of their own. Equity members' health insurance is normally tied to how many weeks out of the year they work on contract. Members who work at least 11 weeks on an Equity contract can qualify for 6 months of coverage through Equity-League Benefit Funds, a separate nonprofit organization jointly managed by trustees of the union and employers. Members who work at least 19 weeks qualify for 1 year of health insurance coverage.  

Actors’ Equity first made the public case for emergency relief for arts and entertainment workers on March 11, when news reports emerged that Washington state and others would limit public gatherings. Equity quickly mobilized to partner with other arts and entertainment unions to make the case to key members of Congress for relief for arts and entertainment workers during this unprecedented crisis. 

Since then, Equity members have sent tens of thousands of letters to their members of Congress seeking relief. Equity has also partnered with the Coalition of Broadway Unions (COBUG) to seek relief for members in New York State, as well as launched the Curtain Up Fund with The Actors Fund to raise money for members in need.

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 

May 18, 2020