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In shift, Bloomberg offers ex-campaign staff health coverage

Michael R. Bloomberg will cover the cost of healthcare for his former presidential campaign staffers through November, reversing course on a decision that had prompted outrage and sparked lawsuits against the billionaire businessman.

The former New York mayor had initially enticed staffers to join his long-shot presidential campaign by offering generous benefits and pay and promising them employment through November, even if he didn’t win the Democratic nomination. Bloomberg initially indicated that, even if he didn’t win the nomination, he would transition his campaign apparatus into an independent entity working to help the Democratic Party defeat President Trump.

Those commitments helped the candidate build out a staff of thousands across 43 states within months of his late entry into the race. But after winning just one U.S. territory during the March 3 Super Tuesday primary contests, Bloomberg bowed out of the race the next day and laid off most of his staff soon afterward.

That move prompted former Bloomberg campaign staffers to launch a number of lawsuits alleging the businessman had lied about the terms of their employment.

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But on Monday, former campaign staffers received an email from the human resources department citing the “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the coronavirus outbreak and offering to cover healthcare costs through November.

“We hope you and your families are safe and well,” the email reads. “We know this continues to be a difficult and stressful time for everyone as we all aim to keep ourselves, our families and communities safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Given these extraordinary circumstances, the campaign will cover the cost of COBRA through November 2020.”

Lawyers involved in the staffers’ suits against Bloomberg said other issues remained. One called the move “an important step in the right direction.

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“But the Bloomberg campaign must keep all of the promises it made to induce staffers to join the campaign, especially the promise to employ the staffers through the general election,” said Peter Romer-Friedman. “It’s not too late for the campaign to put these staffers back to work and make them whole. They are eager to get back to work, help defeat Donald Trump, and elect Joe Biden in November.”

Bloomberg spent nearly $1.1 billion on his campaign between Oct. 1 and March 31, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Times staff writer Seema Mehta in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


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