WASHINGTON, DC – March 27, 2020 – Class I freight and short line railroads applaud Congress for ensuring in the latest COVID-19 aid legislative package that rail workers have access to critical unemployment and sickness benefits during this unprecedented public health emergency. Unlike the average American worker, railroaders do not receive unemployment benefits through state-administered programs but rather through the Railroad Retirement Board’s (RRB) Railroad Unemployment Insurance Program.
As a united front, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) joined with rail labor in calling on Congress to provide rail workers affected by the coronavirus with the same vital protections they extended to other impacted Americans in the first COVID-19 stimulus package. Of note, H.R. 748 includes the following railroad specific provisions:
- Waives the 7-day waiting period for filing a sickness or unemployment claim with the RRB and provides $50 million to cover the costs of providing these additional benefits.
- Increases unemployment benefits through an additional $1,200 bi-weekly benefit and provides $425 million to cover the costs of providing these additional benefits through July 31, 2020.
- Allows RRB to access approximately $130 million of remaining American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to provide extended benefits through December 31, 2020.
- Supplies $5 million to RRB for additional administrative costs.
“This aid package will offer a vital relief to hard working rail employees whose jobs are impacted during these challenging times,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “We thank Congress for ensuring railroaders have access to this lifeline. The industry is committed to working in partnership with its employees as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, and railroaders will continue to deliver what America needs.”
“While short line railroads are working hard to avoid any layoffs or furloughs, this Railroad Unemployment Insurance improvement is an important safety net to provide,” said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker. “We were pleased to work with our friends in rail labor and at the AAR to make this request, and we join them in thanking Congress for its quick action in the face of this unprecedented crisis.”
About AAR: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is the world’s leading railroad policy, research and technology organization focusing on the safety and productivity of rail carriers. AAR members include the major freight railroads of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as Amtrak. Learn more at www.aar.org.