February 7, 2008

Senate Votes to Extend Relief to Seniors

Whitehouse, Who Urged Inclusion of Aid to Older Americans in Stimulus Legislation, Applauds Bipartisan Vote

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate today approved an economic stimulus package that extends financial assistance to over 20 million seniors living on Social Security. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, had urged Senate leaders in a letter last month to include aid to seniors in legislation aimed at boosting the economy.

“The Senate did the right thing today,” Whitehouse said. “In Rhode Island, too many seniors are struggling to make ends meet, trying to stretch Social Security checks to cover rising housing, prescription, and energy costs. This assistance won’t solve those problems, but it will give older Americans a little help they desperately need.”

More than 138,000 Rhode Islanders over the age of 65 received Social Security benefits in 2006, the last year for which data is available, with Social Security benefits averaging just $12,374 per year. Nationwide, 61 percent of seniors who receive Social Security benefits did not pay income taxes in 2006, a technicality that would have left them ineligible to receive aid under an earlier proposal negotiated between President Bush and the House of Representatives.

The new compromise passed by the Senate today will provide a minimum $300 rebate to individual taxpayers ($600 for married taxpayers filing jointly) with at least $1 of tax liability or $3,000 in qualifying income. Unlike President Bush’s plan, the Senate bill will count veterans’ disability payments, including survivor payments, and Social Security benefits as income – ensuring that over 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled veterans have access to this important financial support.

Last week, Whitehouse spoke on the Senate floor to renew his push for aid for seniors in the stimulus plan. “Any rebate we’re able to provide for seniors will provide just the kind of economic stimulus our country needs,” he said in his speech. “Older Americans are more likely to spend the money they receive and to spend it on the goods and services that will help our economy grow.”

Please contact the Press Office for a signed copy of Whitehouse’s original letter.

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921