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Unemployment insurance.

For many who have been laid off from their jobs, unemployment benefits can keep some sort of income coming in, but it is almost always not nearly enough.

To help fill in the gap, UNFCU Financial Advisors has formed a unique partnership to make it happen.

Offered by Assura Group of NY Ltd. and underwritten by the Great American Insurance Group, IncomeAssure replaces 50% of a person's former earnings prior to unemployment. Clients can insure between $50,000 to $250,000 of income against the risk of losing a job.

While employed, the coverage generally costs between 0.5% and 2% of a person's annual salary, according to Assura. To be eligible, a person must be a full-time, on-staff employee, not have been unemployed within the last two years and must have been with their employer for at least six months. There is a two-week waiting period to confirm that state benefits have been approved.

UNFCU Financial Advisors, a wholly owned subsidiary of the $3.6 billion United Nations Federal Credit Union in Long Island, N.Y., will be the contact point for credit unions and others that are interested in offering IncomeAssure, said Stephen Ryerson, president of UNFCU Financial Advisors.

While the program made its official launch May 9, credit unions have already agreed to distribute IncomeAssure but have not started selling the private unemployment insurance, said David Ferron, product management director at Great American Insurance.

"We have just begun to speak to credit unions literally in the last few weeks," Ryerson said.

When asked how IncomeAssure can be positioned against credit protection programs, Ryerson said it can be a complement rather a competing source.

Antonia Townsend, marketing manager at Assura, said there are several situations where Income-Assure may help including those with limited nonretirement savings. Single-earner households, particularly those with multiple children, may also benefit, she noted. Households with significant debt such as a mortgage and those that are going through a life change, including having a child or starting a business, might be interested in the supplemental insurance coverage as well.

According to Ferron and Townsend, IncomeAssure coverage may be the only insurance of its kind available in the United States. Townsend said a similar product is offered in Great Britain. Ferron and Ryerson said other programs are linked to debt cancellation and consumer loans.

IncomeAssure is available in 46 states and the District of Columbia. It is pending in New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The program is not available in Alaska and Hawaii at this time.

Ferron said since the program is still relatively new, the volume is low and no claims have been filed yet. He did say the majority of people who have gone through the application process have been accepted.

Townsend said historically, state benefits were intended to provide 50% of former salary and balance social welfare so that job seekers could aggressively seek employment.

"Quite frankly, what the state provides doesn't match up," she noted.

Depending on where one lives, unemployment benefits may not be enough to pay the bills. Townsend said. Mississippi provides the lowest weekly benefits at a maximum of $235 and Massachusetts provides the highest at $654.

Indeed, the recession and stagnant economy has led to longer stints of unemployment. Townsend said it takes the average unemployed person 40 weeks to find a job. With the average personal savings rate being 4.6% of disposable income and 58.3% of mortgage delinquencies linked to loss of income, the stress of unemployment continues to pile on. Needless to say, 42% of workers identify job uncertainty is a pressing issue, she added.

"This is really something on people's minds," Townsend said. "Between the ages of 18 and 44, you are 180 times more likely to have a spell of unemployment than to die."
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Title Annotation:SERVICES
Publication:Credit Union Times
Date:May 16, 2012
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