A sign posted outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre declaring the theater closed. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Actors’ Equity is calling on the federal government to provide health insurance subsidies to members of the entertainment community who have lost coverage due to the impact of COVID-19. 

Equity is asking the government to provide a 100% subsidy for coverage under COBRA, a federal program that allows employees to continue to receive their employer-given health insurance. The union is asking for the subsidy for all arts workers, the 14,480 new unemployment insurance claims filed by workers in the arts community in the week ending March 28. 

“Equity members are proud to earn their health insurance one week at a time. But the longer the industry is shut down, the more Equity members will be at risk of losing their coverage – to say nothing of members who planned to qualify for health insurance this year because they accepted an offer of work,” Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity, said in the press release. “It is time for Congress to consider a 100 percent COBRA subsidy to ensure that no one loses their health care in the middle of a pandemic.” 

Under typical COBRA guidelines, the former employee is responsible for paying the full cost of the health insurance premium. 

Equity and many other theatrical unions reached a deal with the Broadway League last month in which producers will pay their employees about three weeks of salary and make health and pension contributions. There is the possibility for further discussions on contributions should the shutdown last longer.