Bipartisan bill introduced by Portman ensures unemployed railroad workers receive benefits

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) on Oct. 26 proposed a bipartisan bill to end the federal government’s sequester of the Railroad Retirement Board’s (RRB) Unemployment Insurance Account that is set to run until fiscal year (FY) 2030.

“I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to ensure that unemployed railroad workers receive fair and equal unemployment benefits,” Sen. Portman said. “This legislation would remove the harmful sequester that largely singled out railroad workers’ unemployment benefits during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Sen. Portman sponsored the Railroad Employee Equality and Fairness Act, S. 4860, with original cosponsor U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to end the sequester, which could result in a 5.7 percent reduction in railroad unemployment benefits if allowed to continue through FY 2030, according to Sen. Portman’s office, which noted that this would be particularly concerning during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

In 2019, the RRB received 35,030 unemployment claims and as of September 2020, it has received 133,899 claims, according to the senator’s information. In Ohio, claims have increased from 1,283 in 2019 to 5,983 in 2020.  

“The impact of the sequester has meant these railroad workers have not received the full unemployment insurance benefits that are due to them,” said Sen. Portman. “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused nearly five times as many Ohio railroad workers to lose their jobs through no fault of their own and I urge my colleagues to join me in ensuring they are eligible for the same full unemployment benefits as all Americans.”