Under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, an employee's eligibility for benefits is based on taxable earnings in a calendar year and normally applies only to benefits in the benefit year starting the following July 1. For example, qualifying earnings in calendar year 2014 ordinarily give rise to normal benefits only in the benefit year beginning
July 1, 2015. Given this limited period of potential benefits, the financing of railroad unemployment and sickness benefits is essentially a short-term proposition in comparison to the financing of retirement benefits. An employee's eligibility for unemployment or sickness benefits ceases within 2 years after he or she leaves railroad work, while eligibility for railroad retirement annuities continues for decades after an employee leaves the industry. Consequently, in a given series of benefit years, gradually declining rail employment is less of a factor than major recessions or work stoppages causing industry-wide unemployment on a temporary basis.