The U.S. Senate has voted 61 to 37 in favor of an economic stimulus package that contains several HR-related provisions, including a subsidy for laid-off workers' COBRA premiums.
The legislation would provide a 50 percent COBRA premium subsidy for eligible laid-off workers for 12 months. Employers (or health plans if they administer COBRA benefits) would receive a credit against payroll taxes.
The legislation would also suspend temporarily federal income tax on the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits per recipient. In addition, the legislation would increase unemployment benefits by $25.The proposal would also maintain the federal extended unemployment benefits program (which provides up to 33 weeks of extended benefits) through December 2009.
The legislation would also make the tax-free commuter benefit employers can provide for transit and parking the same. The legislation would set both the parking and transportation benefits at $230 per month for 2009 and index them equally for 2010. Under current rules,
the amounts of employer-provided transportation benefits that may be excluded from gross income are $120 per month for transportation benefits and $230 per month for parking.
The House passed an economic stimulus package in late January. Before the legislation can go to President Obama's desk, House-Senate negotiators must iron out the differences between the bills. The House version of the economic stimulus package, for example, has a 65 percent subsidy for COBRA premiums.