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Schumer To IRS: Give MTA Commuters Their Money Back

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, speaks at the Merrick LIRR train station on Long Island.
Courtesy Office of U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, speaks at the Merrick LIRR train station on Long Island.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has asked the Internal Revenue Service to allow commuters to access money that was deducted from their paychecks for train tickets to ride Metropolitan Transportation Authority railways.

Schumer, from the Merrick LIRR train station on Long Island, asked the Internal Revenue Service to figure out a way for Long Islanders to access the unused money accrued last year from that payroll deduction.

“The federal government and the IRS by keeping the money when people couldn't use it, they weren't even allowed to commute,” Schumer said. “And the dollars belong in people's pockets, not in purgatory.”

Randy Glucksman, chair of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council, and Gerard Bringmann, chair of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council, said their riders each accrued hundreds of dollars last year for train and subway tickets during the pandemic.

“My constituents find themselves in the same situation as Long Island Rail Road customers,” Glucksman said. “We’re just seeking a fair resolution to an issue which was not of their making, and is greatly appreciated [sic] Senator Schumer has agreed to take up this cause, which would find a fair and equitable way of returning their hard earned funds.”

Commuter Eileen Damore told Schumer that she spent over $400 a month to travel from her Long Island home to her job at a printing company in Manhattan. She remembered months into the pandemic to stop taking money out of her paycheck for the transit benefit program. Now, there is over $660 that she cannot use or get back.

“There are thousands of us and we have thousands of dollars tied up. We put this money into the account in good faith,” Damore said. “And the money has been held back from us for over a year. It is our money.

“The IRS is a very intelligent group. They can figure out what the tax benefits should be or the tax deduction to give us our money back. And that's what we're asking for, please return the money to us,” she continued.

According to the IRS, the money can only be used to pay for transit costs and cannot be withdrawn or refunded. Schumer said if the IRS fails to find a work around, he will draft legislation to release the funds to Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuters under the federal transit benefit program.

The money would be taxed once it is released to riders.

“We don't know if they're going to be able to go back to commuting the way they were. But they could use that money for rent or for food, particularly during these times of hardship,” said Lisa Daglian, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.