Call Your legislator: Protect the Rail Worker Provisions in the HEROES Act

Published: May 14 2020 2:35PM

HEROES Act legislation progressing through the U.S. House of Representatives includes many provisions that would provide substantive support to railroaders and all working people.

This is a significant accomplishment. We will need to increase pressure on lawmakers to pass the legislation in the House, especially the provisions that provide substantive support to railroaders and all working people. We ask that you call and email your elected representatives and implore them to keep railroaders and working people protections foremost and prominent in any stimulus legislation. You can call your Congressional Representative at 855-300-3836 or email at this link:  https://bit.ly/message-EWBOR Below are a list of provisions that we have worked diligently on to be included in forthcoming law.

For Rail, the legislation also provides the following:

Sec._1_. Amtrak COVID-19 Requirements. This provision provides that, for the duration of the COVID- 19 pandemic, Amtrak must require passengers and employees to wear masks or protective face coverings while onboard an Amtrak train. Amtrak must also provide masks or protective face coverings, gloves, hand sanitizer, and wipes to all employees whose job responsibilities include passenger interaction. It also ensures that Amtrak trains, stations, and enclosed facilities are frequently cleaned and disinfected, and that employees who do this work are provided masks or protective face coverings and gloves.  

Sec._2_. Additional Enhanced Benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act.  For railroad workers receiving unemployment benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, this provision would extend the temporary recovery benefit that provides $1,200 every two weeks (per registration period) in addition to regular benefits, creating parity for railroad workers.

Sec. _3_. Extended Benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. This provision extends the timeframe in which railroad workers may apply for the 13-week extension of unemployment benefits established under the CARES Act, providing parity for railroad workers.  

Sec. _4_. Waiving the Day Waiting Period. The CARES Act waived the waiting week for unemployment and sickness benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act through December 31, 2020. This provision extends that waiver, providing parity for railroad workers.  

Sec._5_. Treatment of Payments from the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Account. This provision would eliminate the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act sequester that automatically cuts unemployment and sickness benefits provided to railroad workers under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. This change would allow railroad workers to receive the full benefit amounts to which they are entitled and would create parity with the treatment of other unemployment insurance benefit programs.

Sec._6_. Technical Correction for Extended Unemployment Benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act. Provides a technical correction to a provision in the CARES Act that extended railroad unemployment benefits to allow for easier implementation of the extended benefits.

Sec._7_. Technical Correction. Provides a technical correction to a provision in the CARES Act by fixing an incorrect title reference to the Railroad Retirement Act.

Sec._8_. Clarification of Oversight and Implementation of Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act. Provides a technical correction to ensure that the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) and its Inspector General have implementation and oversight authority over the RUIA related provisions of the CARES Act.

The lifting of the Sequestration effect on RRB benefits is a huge victory!

Here are some big wins for Essential Workers we asked for and got in the House Bill to be voted on Friday:

• A broad and inclusive definition of an essential worker: “Any other worker who cannot telework and who the State or local government deems to be essential during the COVID¬19 pandemic”

• Hazard pay.

• Heath care through COBRA subsidies.

• Paid sick leave.

• Child care support (block grant increased to $12.15 billion in 2020 with 850 million held for essential workers with no access to child care). 

• Inclusive of immigrants (The legislation would remove the CARES1 requirement of a SSN, meaning immigrants who file returns with a taxpayer identification number (or TIN) could get money.)

• OSHA Protections: Requiring them to issue an emergency temp standard to protect Essential Workers at occupational risk of covid-19 exposure.

• Provides access to PPE for first responders and essential workers.

• Collective bargaining protections.

• There are other measures in CARES2 that many more workers and families, including Essential Workers, will benefit from including: 

• Critical election reforms (vote by mail funding and funding for USPS)

• $10K in federal student debt cancellation, which would leave an estimated 16 million borrowers completely debt free, and suspends student loan payments to Sept 2021 giving borrowers a chance to recover.