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"U.S. Senator Peter G. Fitzgerald Co-sponsors Assistance Package for Laid-Off Airline And Airport Employees"

Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Fitzgerald Co-sponsors Assistance Package for Laid-Off Airline And
Airport Employees 
Measure Extends Unemployment and Healthcare Benefits, Provides
Retraining; Could Help Thousands in Illinois Who Lost Jobs 
Press Release

WASHINGTON, -- U.S. Senator Peter G. Fitzgerald (R-Illinois) announced
today that he is joining Senator Jean Carnahan (D-MO) in co-sponsoring a
bill that would provide assistance to individuals who lose their jobs
due to reductions in air service, the closure of airports, or related
security measures resulting from the September 11th terrorist attacks. 

Fitzgerald and Carnahan joined airline employees, labor leaders, and
other congressional co-sponsors at a Washington news conference this
morning to outline the plan. 

"Congress acted hastily -- too hastily, in my view -- to bail out the
airlines with taxpayer dollars," Fitzgerald noted. "Remarkably, none of
that money will go to help the thousands of airline and airport
employees who have lost their jobs or will soon lose their jobs because
of cutbacks in air service." 

"Congress should have helped the thousands of airline employees who are
losing their jobs rather than using taxpayer money to bail out the
shareholders. This is the package we should have passed in the first
place," Fitzgerald stated. 

Fitzgerald, a commercial banking attorney by trade, voted against the
airline bailout package because it was unfair to workers and unfair to
taxpayers. The bailout compensated the airlines for much more than they
lost on the days they were shut down, demanded too little in return for
taxpayers, and did nothing to help laid-off workers. 

The measure Fitzgerald is co-sponsoring, modeled after an existing law
that provides additional benefits to individuals who have lost their
jobs due to foreign competition, contains three components: 

   * Extends unemployment benefits for laid-off airline and airport
employees from 26 to 72 weeks; 

   * Makes some employees eligible for retraining benefits subject to
approval by the Department of Labor; and 

   * Subsidizes health insurance premiums for eligible displaced workers
under the COBRA transitional insurance program. 

The bill also gives states flexibility to cover the unemployed
individuals through Medicaid, in the event COBRA coverage is

"Congress gave the airlines too much money with not enough strings
attached. We asked the taxpayers to prop up a troubled industry without
demanding anything in return for the hard-working men and women who make
it work," Fitzgerald said of the initial airline bailout package that
passed on September 21. "This bill, in contrast, could help thousands of
airline and airport employees who have lost their jobs in recent days
afford health care and make ends meet for their families," he concluded.

The bipartisan employee assistance package, S. 1454, has 32 Senate co-
sponsors. A related measure, H.R. 2955, has been introduced in the House
of Representatives.

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