INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, March 27 – The needs of railroad workers and their families – including improvements to railroad unemployment benefits – are included in the new coronavirus stimulus package, which was signed into law today.
On March 26, the United States Senate unanimously ratified H.R. 748, a $2 trillion stimulus package known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the U.S. House of Representatives passed the measure by a voice vote earlier today. President Trump signed the bill into law a short time ago.
The legislation benefits out-of-work railroaders by waiving the 7-day waiting period for benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) and providing $50 million to cover the costs of providing these additional benefits. It increases RUIA unemployment benefits through an additional $1,200 biweekly benefit and provides $425 million to cover the costs of providing these additional benefits through July 31, 2020). The legislation allows the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) to access approximately $130 million of remaining American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to provide extended benefits through December 31, 2020, and supplies RRB with $5 million to pay for additional administrative costs.
The measure also protects Amtrak workers by providing $1.02 billion in funding for the National Railroad Passenger Corp., which would be split between the Northeast Corridor ($492 million) and its National Network ($526 million). The bill also provides $24.9 billion in grants for various transit agencies throughout the nation.
BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce, who also serves as President of the Teamsters Rail Conference, sent a letter to U.S. Senate and House majority and minority leaders on March 24 asking for special consideration to railroad workers. While many of his requests were included in the stimulus package, the bill does not remove the sequestration requirements set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which are applicable to RUIA benefits, causing an artificial reduction in unemployment benefits.
“I thank members of Congress and the White House for working together across party lines to help all Americans, especially railroad workers, during the current coronavirus pandemic,” President Pierce said. “While I am disappointed that they did not remove the sequestration requirement, we will continue to lobby Congress to overturn this most unjust requirement.”