Yvette Stephens lamented Thursday that she has not been able to afford medical care in the past 16 months to cover the injections she needs for her multiple sclerosis – a treatment that can cost up to $ 1,000 a month.

Stephens said she was denied Medicaid because she received a raise and earned just $ 2 above the eligibility threshold. And like many of her colleagues at Newark Liberty International Airport, it was too expensive to get health insurance through her employer.

“I live in multiple conditions, but what can I do without medical care?” asked Stephens, an airport security officer, who said she also needed treatment for a lump in her throat.

Stephens shared her story shortly before Governor Phil Murphy signed a law requiring subcontractors to receive a raise and quality healthcare at Newark Airport and the train station.

“Today I am finally, finally, finally – FINALLY! – finally full of hope for me and for all of us, “said Stephens during a ceremony at the airport to advocate the law known as the Healthy Terminals Act. “With HTA, we no longer have to choose between feeding our families and taking care of our health.”

The law (S989) affects more than 10,000 airport workers, including baggage handlers, guards, cleaners and food service workers.

Officials said it will raise workers wage rates from $ 16.20 an hour to $ 19 an hour by September 2023, and oblige employers to provide $ 4.54 an hour of health care benefits.

Subcontractors at the airport must receive wage rates that are at least equivalent to those stipulated in the applicable Federal Wage Act for employees in building technology. It also requires that they receive additional benefits equivalent to those established by the U.S. Labor Commissioner.

The bill was passed largely partisan by democratically controlled state legislature earlier this year – 23-12 in the Senate and 47-25 in the Assembly.

Murphy, a Democrat, was assisted Thursday by Stephen Sweeney, President of the Senate, D-Gloucester, and Craig Coughlin, Speaker of the State Assembly, D-Middlesex. They said the law was especially important in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“When you work every day to do your job in a global transportation hub, high quality, affordable health care in the midst of a global pandemic is much more than a benefit. It’s becoming a basic right, ”Murphy said. “All we are saying with this law is that every worker deserves the ability to afford a health plan that works for them and their families.”

State Assembly MP, Annette Quijano, D-Union, a main sponsor of the measure, called this “a victory for black, brown and immigrant workers who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic since day 1, disinfecting aircraft and cleaning terminals , Securing your airports, handling important PPE and deliveries. “

Sweeney added, “This is a great day for the workers.”

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Brent Johnson can be reached at [email protected]