Rail Unions Seek End to Sequestration of Benefits

Railroad labors are seeking to overturn what they describe as unfair sequestration of Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act benefits, which they say reduces the unemployment and sickness benefits of railroad workers.

They are asking Congress to adopt language consistent with the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act that would eliminate sequestration.

The HEROES Act, which has been approved by the House but not the Senate, would increase pay for front-line workers, extend unemployment measures and provide another round of $1,200 in stimulus checks for Americans.

The railroad unions want Congress to rescind the sequestration of RUIA benefits by amending the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 to include RUIA among other various programs that are not subject to sequestration.

“Unlike the average U.S. worker, railroad employees do not receive unemployment benefits through state-administered unemployment insurance programs,” said a statement released by the unions.

The statement said unemployed railroaders receive benefits through the RUIA program, which is administered by the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 made RUIA subject to sequestration but the unions said no state unemployment insurance benefits are subject to that.

Unemployment and sickness benefits payable under the RUIA have been sequestered or reduced since 2013, as part of a package of automatic spending reductions required by the BCA.

Currently, RUIA unemployment benefits are being sequestered at the rate of 5.9 percent, as are RUIA sickness benefits.

In the past, these rates have been adjusted annually when the federal sequestration is recalculated. Railroads have seen their benefits sequestered as high as 9.2 percent in the past, union officials said.

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