President Obama last night signed a bill extending the 65 percent COBRA subsidy through May 31 and pushing back to June 2 the deadline for jobless people to file for federal unemployment insurance benefits.
The president acted after the $18 billion bill passed the Senate by a 59 to 38 margin then sailed through the House in a bi-partisan 289 to 112 vote.
"Millions of Americans who lost their jobs in this economic crisis depend on unemployment and health insurance benefits to get by as they look for work and get themselves back on their feet," Obama said in a statement. "But as I requested in my budget, I urge Congress to move quickly to extend these benefits through the end of this year."
An estimated 9,200 Massachusetts residents lost access to federal jobless benefits when the extension bill stalled in the Senate on April 5 amid partisan disagreements over how to account for the cost of the program. The unemployment rate in Massachusetts declined from 9.5 percent to 9.3 percent in March, driven by hiring among retail and financial services companies.