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Bloomberg Campaign To Fund Health Insurance For Fired Staffers Until November

Former Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg speaks to supporters as he announces the suspension of his campaign and his endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden on March 4.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
Former Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg speaks to supporters as he announces the suspension of his campaign and his endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden on March 4.

Updated at 4:55 p.m. ET

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg's presidential campaign will now pay health care costs for former staffers through November, after originally offering laid off workers coverage only through the end of April, according to an email from the campaign's human resources.

"Given these extraordinary circumstances, the campaign will cover the cost of COBRA through November, 2020. This is aimed at supporting those who have not already secured replacement healthcare coverage," stated the unsigned email obtained by NPR from multiple former campaign staffers.

COBRA refers to a federal law that allows employees to remain with their employer coverage at their own expense after being terminated.

The development comes after several staffers filed lawsuits against Bloomberg's campaign and have spoken out publicly about what they say were false promises made by Bloomberg's campaign. It was first reported by NBC.

Multiple former Bloomberg staffers told NPR in a series of on-the record interviews that they had been promised work through November to defeat President Trump, no matter what. But instead, they say, they were laid off without guarantees of work.

The complaint in one of the cases alleges that the Bloomberg campaign "deprived [staff] of promised income and health care benefits, leaving them and their families potentially uninsured in the face of a global pandemic."

Peter Romer-Friedman, a lawyer involved in one of the lawsuits against the Bloomberg campaign, described the extension of health care funding as "an important step in the right direction," but added that the campaign "must keep all of the promises it made to induce staffers to join the campaign."

"It's not too late for the campaign to put these staffers back to work and make them whole," he said.

Gregg Shavitz, a partner with Shavitz Law Group who is also involved in legal action against the campaign, said that he believes "the campaign has been motivated to extend the insurance benefits during the pressure being exerted" from the lawsuits. He added that he and other lawyers have filed a motion for unpaid overtime, in addition to the wages the staffers say they were guaranteed. More than 100 former Bloomberg staffers have joined that lawsuit.

The Bloomberg campaign's hope was that in time many of the staffers would ultimately be employed by the Democratic National Committee. Bloomberg gave $18 million to the Democratic National Committee for the party's battleground states program.

Staffers had been told in March that a fund had been established to cover the cost of health insurance through April.

At that time, Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey told NPR in a statement that the fund was created "to ensure that all staff — whether in process with the DNC or those who opted themselves out — will have uninterrupted healthcare coverage from the time our campaign ended in early March through the end of April."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.