Labor Department Grant Will Help 1,868 Jobless Virginians Pay Their Health Insurance Premiums

By Susan Jones | October 21, 2010 | 11:50 AM EDT

( – The U.S. Department of Labor is using taxpayer (stimulus) money to help 1,868 jobless Virginians pay part of their health insurance premiums.

"The challenges associated with a job search are stressful enough without worrying about a lack of health insurance if the job seeker or a family member falls ill or needs medical attention," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in an Oct. 20 news release. "Helping these Virginians maintain insurance coverage as they seek re-employment is one way we can ensure the state's working families get the support they need and deserve."

Funding for the $3-million National Emergency Grant was authorized under the stimulus law – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor's discretionary fund.

The grant money will be used to make insurance payments for unemployed Virginians who are receiving Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits and who are eligible for – but not yet receiving assistance from -- the Health Coverage Tax Credit program.

The Trade Adjustment Assistance program provides aid to workers who lose their jobs or whose work hours and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports.

The Health Coverage Tax Credit program, which falls under the Internal Revenue Service, makes health insurance more affordable for “trade-affected workers.” Specifically, the tax credit allows qualified individuals to pay only 20 percent of their health insurance premiums.

The National Emergency Grant announced on Wednesday will be used to make “gap” payments until the IRS can enroll the “trade-affected workers” in its HCTC program. “Through today's grant, the Commonwealth of Virginia will provide two to three months of "gap filler" payments for participants,” the Labor Department said.

Of the $3,008,790 announced on Wednesday, $1,389,568 will be spent initially. Additional funding will be made available as the commonwealth demonstrates the need for continued assistance.