The $2.2 trillion federal stimulus legislation that Congress passed late last week included measures that ensured rail workers will have access to unemployment and sickness benefits during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) announced late last week.
The AAR and ASLRRA joined rail labor unions in calling on Congress to provide rail workers affected by the coronavirus with the same protections extended to other Americans in the first COVID-19 stimulus package, which was passed earlier this month.
Unlike other American workers, railroaders do not receive unemployment benefits through state-administered programs, but rather through the Railroad Retirement Board's (RRB) Railroad Unemployment Insurance Program.
However, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) that President Donald Trump signed on March 27 includes the following provisions:
• waives the seven-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 biweekly benefit and provides $425 million to cover the costs of providing these additional benefits through July 31;
• allows RRB to access about $130 million of remaining American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to provide extended benefits through Dec. 31; and
• supplies $5 million to RRB for additional administrative costs.
"This aid package will offer vital relief to hard-working rail employees whose jobs are impacted during these challenging times," said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ian Jefferies in a press release.