WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a Senate Budget Committee meeting today, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) testified in support of her legislation to protect railroad employees and end mandated cuts to the Railroad Retirement Board’s (RRB) Unemployment Insurance Account. At the same meeting, the committee unanimously approved Senator Fischer’s bill, the Railroad Employee Equity and Fairness (REEF) Act.

Current law requires the RRB to reduce railroad unemployment and sickness benefits by 5.7 percent beginning on May 10, 2023.

The Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) is entirely funded by railroad employers and workers. However, RUIA benefits are being unfairly sequestered for federal budget cuts.This means that the funds railroaders and employers pay into the RUIA for unemployment and sickness benefits are used to offset federal spending instead of going back to the hard-working individuals who pay into it.


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Following are Senator Fischer’s Remarks as Prepared for Delivery:

Thank you for the opportunity to introduce my Railroad Employee Equity and Fairness Act, or REEF Act, for today’s markup.

This bipartisan bill is an example of the legislating we don’t always hear about in the news — legislating where Republicans and Democrats come together to accomplish real things for real people.

In this case, those people are America’s railroad employees. The REEF Act would support and protect railroad workers by ending cuts to their unemployment and sickness benefits.

Current law mandates the Railroad Retirement Board, the agency that administers benefits to railroad employees, cut its Unemployment Insurance Account each year. These sequestration cuts, of 5.7 percent annually, began in May 2023 and are set to continue through Fiscal Year 2031.

As a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, I’ve heard from railroad workers about the effects these cuts are already having. I’ve spoken with them about the ways these cuts are disadvantaging them and creating instability in the industry — especially because more cuts are coming over the next several years.

Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act benefits are the only federal benefits program entirely funded by the railroad industry and the special payroll taxes and surcharges the industry collects — with no payments from taxpayers. So these sequestration cuts are doing nothing to curb the spending of taxpayer funds. They’re only hurting rail workers.

Railroad employees play an indispensable role in keeping our trains moving, whether to transport passengers or freight. The network is a significant contributor to our economy. On a practical level, we don’t want to hinder workers from entering or remaining in the industry.

But more importantly, we must protect our railroad employees and their livelihoods. They deserve the benefits they’ve earned by committing their careers to the railroad, in many cases for years or decades. Rail workers shouldn’t be penalized for doing work that is necessary to our economy and transportation network.

The REEF Act will right the wrong of unfair cuts, ensuring that the people who keep our trains moving receive the benefits they’ve earned.

I’m grateful this legislation will be considered at today’s markup. This is a common-sense bipartisan legislative change that is long overdue. Railroad workers need the support we can provide through passing this bill, and I look forward to following through for them soon. Thank you.

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