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May 11 update and press release from the Railroad Retirement Board Labor Member; RRB pays extended unemployment benefits under CARES Act

(BLET Editor’s Note: The following is a message to Rail Labor from John Bragg, Labor Member of the Railroad Retirement Board.)

CHICAGO, May 11 — As explained in the attached press release (below), I am pleased to announce that beginning on May 12, 2020, unemployment insurance (UI) beneficiaries will begin to see deposits in their accounts which involve new and expanded UI extended benefit periods in accordance with the CARES Act. This means that eligible railroad employees who had exhausted their UI for this benefit year will again be able to file for and receive UI benefits. Over 2,300 claimant records were adjusted and the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) paid over $1 million in benefits.

These payments reflect a successful completion of Phase 1 of the RRB’s CARES Act implementation plan. Phase 1 required the RRB to identify all employees who exhausted their regular UI benefits during the benefit year that began July 1, 2019, establish new extended UI periods and lengthen existing extended UI benefit periods as appropriate, and pay any denied days of unemployment already on record. The RRB also sent UI claimants a letter of the payment actions and mailed any needed claim forms to bring claimants current so they can continue to receive the extended benefits. For those who file their claims electronically, the RRB loaded appropriate claim forms to their online accounts so that individuals can file them online through myRRB on the website RRB.gov.

Phase 2 will be the payment of the additional $1,200 per registration period for claims beginning April 1, 2020 or later. Our team is working on the necessary programming changes to provide for those payments. We do not have an implementation date as of yet, but barring unforeseen complications, hope to have Phase 2 completed by the end of the month.

I assure you that agency employees recognize the lifeline that these benefits represent for the railroad community and all appropriate resources are being directed towards completing this work as soon as possible.

# # #

Press release: RRB pays extended unemployment benefits under CARES Act

(Source: Railroad Retirement Board press release, May 11, 2020)

CHICAGO — The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, recently signed into law by President Trump, authorized extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for railroad workers sidelined during the COVID-19 pandemic. After making necessary programming changes to agency systems, the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) began processing and paying extended benefits on May 11.

The CARES Act authorized payment of extended UI benefits to rail workers who received UI benefits from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020. Under the legislation, railroad workers with less than 10 years of service may be eligible for up to 65 days of extended benefits within 7 consecutive 2-week registration periods. Workers with 10 or more years of railroad service, who were previously eligible for up to 65 days in extended benefits, may now receive benefits for up to 130 days within 13 consecutive 2-week registration periods. No extended benefit period under this provision can begin after December 31, 2020.

The RRB will identify any employees who exhausted their regular UI benefits during the benefit year that began July 1, 2019, and send them a letter and claim forms to receive the extended benefits. The agency will also load appropriate claim forms to online accounts so that individuals can file them online through myRRB on the agency website, RRB.gov.

Since RRB offices are currently closed to the public due to the pandemic, railroad employees are encouraged to file for UI benefits by setting up an online myRRB account if they have not already done so.

The extended benefits are being paid from a previous appropriation under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, of which $140 million remains. As a result, these benefits will not be charged to rail employers in calculating their contribution rates to fund the railroad unemployment system. Extended benefits will be payable until a claimant’s eligibility is exhausted or the appropriation is depleted, whichever comes first.

While the extended benefits will not be subject to reduction due to budget sequestration, the RRB does remind recipients that the payments are subject to income taxation and garnishment for tax or other legally established debts.

The team responsible for programming adjustments continues to work diligently to update systems to allow for the payment of the additional CARES Act benefits. When that processing is completed, payment will be made to cover retroactive periods. Meanwhile, employees who met eligibility requirements for UI at the beginning of the benefit year but had exhausted those benefits will now be able to file for and again receive UI benefits.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

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