A new benefit year under the Railroad
Unemployment Insurance Act begins July 1, 2013. The maximum daily benefit rate
payable for claims under this Act increases to $68 in the new benefit year.
Benefits are normally paid for the number of days of unemployment or sickness
over four in 14-day registration periods, so maximum benefits for biweekly
claims would total $680.
However, as a result of a sequestration order
under the Budget Control Act of 2011, the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB)
reduced unemployment and sickness benefits by 9.2 percent effective March 1,
2013. The reduction amount was based, in part, on projected claims and benefit
payments for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year.
For this reason, the maximum daily benefit
rate will be $61.74 at the start of the new benefit year, or a maximum of
$617.44 in a two-week period. Certain sickness benefits are reduced for regular
tier I payroll taxes of 7.65 percent. Coupled with the 9.2-percent reduction,
the maximum daily benefit rate on these sickness benefits will initially be
$57.02 or a maximum of $570.21 over two weeks.
The total sequestration amount is spread out
over a nine-year period, with the initial impact in the period ending September
30, 2013. Congress will determine the amount of any reductions in the fiscal
year beginning October 1, 2013, and subsequent years.
During the first 14-day claim period in a
benefit year, benefits are payable for each day of unemployment or sickness in
excess of seven, rather than four, which, in effect, provides a one-week waiting
period. Initial sickness claims must also begin with four consecutive days of
sickness. However, only one waiting period is required during any period of
continuing unemployment or sickness, even if that period continues into a
subsequent benefit year. Claimants already on the rolls will, therefore,
normally not be required to serve another waiting period because of the onset of
the new benefit year.
To qualify for normal railroad unemployment or
sickness benefits in the benefit year beginning July 1, 2013, an employee must
have had railroad earnings of at least $3,412.50 in calendar year 2012, counting
no more than $1,365 for any month. Those who were first employed in the rail
industry in 2012 must also have at least five months of creditable railroad
service in that year.
Under certain conditions, employees with at
least 10 years of service who do not qualify in the new benefit year on the
basis of their 2012 earnings may still be able to receive benefits after June
30, 2013. For example, such employees who received normal benefits in the
benefit year ending June 30, 2013, might still be eligible for extended
benefits. In addition, ten-year employees may be eligible for accelerated
benefits if they have rail earnings of at least $3,512.50 in 2013, not counting
earnings of more than $1,405 a month.
Application forms for unemployment and
sickness benefits may be obtained from railroad employers, railroad labor
organizations, any RRB office, or the agency's website at www.rrb.gov. As an
alternative to applying for unemployment benefits through the mail, rail workers
can file applications and subsequent claims for unemployment benefits online.
Similarly, they can file claims for sickness benefits online, although the
original application must still be submitted by mail. Employees can also access
information about their individual railroad unemployment insurance account
statements online. These account statements provide a summary of the
unemployment and sickness benefits paid under the Railroad Unemployment
Insurance Act to rail employees.
To access these online services, employees
must first establish an RRB Internet Services account. For security purposes,
first-time users must apply for a Password Request Code, which they will receive
by regular mail in about 10 business days. To do this, employees should click on
the link for requesting a Password Request Code (PRC) in the Benefit Online
Services Login section of the www.rrb.gov home page. Once employees establish
their online accounts, they will be able to file their applications and biweekly
claims for unemployment benefits as well as conduct other business with the RRB
over the Internet. Employees are encouraged to initiate an online account while
still employed so the account is established if they ever need to use these or
other select RRB Internet services. Employees who have already established
online accounts do not need to do so again.
Claimants with questions about unemployment or
sickness benefits should contact an RRB office by calling toll free at
1-877-772-5772. Claimants can also find the address of the RRB office servicing
their area and get information about their claims and benefit payments by
calling this toll-free number. Most RRB offices are open to the public from 9:00
a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on Federal holidays. Field
office locations can also be found online at www.rrb.gov.
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