At the hearing on Wednesday, committee members criticized Mr. Flynn for enacting job cuts after receiving emergency funds as part of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus passed by federal lawmakers in March.
Congress “provided over $1 billion in CARES Act funding for Amtrak with the understanding that part of the funds would be used to prevent furloughs,” said Representative Daniel Lipinski, Democrat of Illinois. “So Amtrak’s announcement that they will furlough over 2,000 employees on Oct. 1 is extremely disappointing.”
Rail advocates also said that Amtrak’s service reduction on its long-distance routes, which serve nearly 220 communities across the Southern, mountain and Western regions, would be a tremendous blow to local economies for very little in cost savings.
“Cutting daily service could drop at least a $2.3 billion bomb on flyover country while possibly only saving Amtrak $213 million,” said Jim Mathews, the chief executive of the Rail Passengers Association, an advocacy group.
Union leaders who represent a majority of Amtrak’s labor force also questioned Mr. Flynn’s decision to keep retirement benefits in place for management-level employees while furloughing 1,950 union workers in the coming weeks.
Mr. Flynn said those benefits were necessary to retain management talent at the company.
“We urge Amtrak to reverse course and prioritize the rank-and-file, frontline workers who interact directly with our riders,” said Amy Griffin, the president of the Transport Workers Union of America Local 1460. “This money would not just keep thousands employed, but preserve safe and healthy rail travel for the communities we serve.”
Senate Republicans on Tuesday released a pared-down coronavirus stimulus plan, which would provide federal aid to unemployed workers, schools, farmers, the Postal Service and small businesses. No emergency funding for Amtrak is in the proposal, according to an Amtrak spokesman.