They Set Aside Money for Their Commutes. Now They Can’t Get It Back.

The New York Times
Winnie Hu

Any bit of savings helped when Eileen Damore was spending more than $400 a month to travel by train and subway from her Long Island home to her job at a printing company in Manhattan.

So she enrolled in a benefit that allows commuters to deduct up to $270 a month from their paycheck for transit expenses while lowering their taxable income. But when Ms. Damore, a pricing manager, started working from home early last year because of the pandemic, the transit benefit kept being taken out of her paycheck until she remembered to stop it.

Now, she has $662.50 that she cannot use or get back.

“It wasn’t top of mind to stop the deduction,” Ms. Damore said.

The unused benefits have become another headache for many commuters in New York, where more people use public transit than in any other American city and where the pandemic has emptied out subways, trains and buses.