The so-called fiscal cliff bill approved by the House and Senate Jan. 1 allows extended railroad unemployment benefits to continue through Dec. 31, 2013, with Congress appropriating $250,000 to the Railroad Retirement Board to administer those extended benefits under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act.

The extension affects those railroaders out of work at least six months.

RRB logo; Railroad Retirement BoardFor rail workers furloughed as a result of Hurricane Sandy, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) advises those victims may qualify for railroad unemployment benefits.

Following a request by UTU International President Mike Futhey to RRB Labor Member Walt Barrows, the RRB has agreed to waive a time-consuming requirement that claims be verified by the carrier, thus expediting the claims procedure for members adversely impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Those furloughed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy may thus file claims by telephone or electronically via the Railroad Retirement Board’s website.

To file claims for benefits, affected railroaders should call the RRB’s toll-free telephone number at 877-772-5772, or visit its website at

To qualify for normal railroad unemployment benefits in the benefit year that began July 1, an employee must have had railroad earnings of at least $3,325 in calendar year 2011, counting no more than $1,330 for any month. Those who were first employed in the rail industry in 2011 must also have at least five months of creditable railroad service in that year.

Railroad unemployment benefits are normally paid for the number of days of unemployment over four in 14-day registration periods. The maximum daily benefit rate is currently $66, so maximum benefits for biweekly claims will total $660.

In addition, during the first 14-day claim period in a benefit year, benefits are payable for each day of unemployment in excess of seven, rather than four, which basically creates a one-week waiting period.

To file an application for benefits online via the website, a furloughed worker must have an Internet Services Account with the RRB. For security purposes, first-time users must obtain a unique password, which they can do by clicking on the link for requesting a Password Request Code (PRC) in the Benefit Online Services login section at

Individuals who have already established an Internet Services Account and password can go online to file applications and claims for biweekly unemployment benefits.