.In a letter to leaders of Congress, the Seniors Citizen’s League Chairman Rick Delaney called for a one-off $1,400 Social Security stimulus payment for seniors. The proposal came after the group heard from seniors telling them of the countless hardships they faced as a result of the highest inflation in decades in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many have expressed a feeling of abandonment from the government, telling the Seniors Citizen’s League “our government has forgotten about us”. The Seniors Citizen’s League is aware that Congress is unlikely to take any further steps this year with due to other more pressing issues from raising the US federal debt ceiling, to passing President Biden’s Build Back Better investment plan for America. However, the group has expressed hopes that it can become a major issue next year, and that we may be successful in garnering Congressional support if the proposal gains enough support among seniors.
In the letter to Congress, Delaney urged members to send a special $1,400 stimulus check to those receiving Social Security benefits. Such a measure could help defray the costs associated for some seniors coming as a result of the 2022 cost-of-living adjustment, which was the highest in 40 years, effectively pushing seniors into a higher tax bracket. Besides higher taxes, the increase could also bring with it a rise in surcharges to their Medicare Part B premiums. The letter began by highlighting that the organization has heard from thousands of seniors “who have exhausted their retirement savings” and started “eating just one meal a day” or “cutting their pills in half because they can’t afford their prescription drugs”. Next year’s cost-of-living-adjustment, or COLA, was recently announced, with an increase of 5.9%, one of the biggest increases in history.
But while some argue that the financial problems experienced by seniors will be solved with the introduction of the 2022 COLA, the Senior’s Citizen’s League disagrees. The Senior’s Citizen’s League projects that the size of the COLA increase will not be enough to deal with this years inflation, nor prior years of inadequate increases. The average Social Security beneficiary receives a small monthly payment of $1,565. While some retirees have access to a private retirement account, a large portion rely solely on Social Security. This means that when a crisis like the pandemic hits, inflation and other economic impacts can take a devastating toll on their income. Since beneficiaries over a certain age are not allowed to work and receive benefits, their income is fixed. So without swift government action, they are many times left in a vulnerable position.
Over the last year, prices of basic goods have increased rapidly. Consumers have paid higher costs across the board as the economy reopened and supply chains destroyed by the pandemic raised their prices in order to cover past debts and rebuild. In September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over the previous year, the Consumer Price Index for “all items index increased 5.3 percent before seasonal adjustment”. For food, people are on average paying 3 percent more than they were a year ago, and for many other goods, the trends are just as worrisome.
The petition to raise support for the bill has reached over a million signatures, but there have been no national polls conducted to gauge the public’s opinion of the idea. So far, leaders on Capitol Hill have been silent on their support or opposition to a targeted stimulus check for seniors. I think that lawmakers should close out this year by proving themselves worthy of keeping their seat in the Senate by offering provisions to provide some sort of immediate economic relief to struggling seniors across the country.