According to reports from multiple Cast Members, Disney is not providing necessary information regarding financial assistance available through The American Rescue Plan (ARP). The sweeping ARP bill was enacted in March 2021 by President Joe Biden, and most Americans know the bill for the $1,400 direct payments it provided. Another part of the bill offers money to cover continuing health insurance benefits (COBRA) to those who lost their jobs during the pandemic.
Upon termination, former Cast Members could opt to continue making health insurance payments under COBRA laws. The Cast Member is responsible for the insurance premium payments. ARP aims to reimburse premium payments for “eligible individuals.” Under ARP, COBRA premiums are 100% covered April 2021 through September 2021.
JD Supra provides a detailed explanation of who qualifies as eligible individuals. This description applies to Cast Members who lost their jobs last year.
A notice of a special COBRA election for qualified beneficiaries who incurred an involuntary termination of employment or a reduction in hours prior to April 1, 2021 and whose maximum COBRA election period (typically 18 months) has not expired, which generally means qualifying events prior to October 1, 2019. This notice is required by May 31, 2021, which is 60 days from the April 1, 2021 start date for premium assistance. An employer is not required to send notice of the special extended COBRA election period to individuals who do not satisfy the criteria listed above.
Disney has until May 31, 2021 to notify Cast Members who qualify. Cast Members have until July 31 to elect the COBRA benefits.
Qualifying Cast Members that have reached out to Disney Benefits have been told that human resources has yet to provide a list of eligible furloughed individuals. This delay undoubtedly is alarming to Cast Members who need the financial assistance with only 10 days left to go before the notice deadline.
WDWNT will continue to follow this story as it develops.