With the job outlook grim, unemployed workers received an unexpected boost this week as President Obama signed legislation authorizing a six-month extension of the COBRA health care subsidy program that was part of the economic stimulus bill passed in February. "That makes me pretty happy," says Don Hall, 56, who lives outside Sandusky, Ohio. A supervisor with an MBA at an automotive parts supplier to Ford Motor Company, Hall was laid off in October 2008. He recently sent a letter of hardship to Wells Fargo to try to save his house from foreclosure. His subsidized COBRA payment has been $258 a month and he says not having to pay an additional $500 a month for health care coverage is a godsend. "When you have to draw straws between paying the utility bills, the mortgage and health care, it's hard."

"For millions of laid-off workers and their families, the federal COBRA subsidies have been a health-coverage lifeline," says Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a non-profit organization for health care consumers.

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