January 8, 2009

Whitehouse Calls for Temporary Boost to Social Security

Urges Senate Leaders to Target Stimulus Relief to Seniors and the Disabled

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has asked Senate leaders to consider a temporary increase in Social Security benefits as part of economic stimulus legislation now being developed, to ensure that financial assistance reaches seniors and disabled Americans struggling to make ends meet as the economy worsens.

In a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA), Whitehouse emphasized that fixed incomes and reliance on costly prescription drugs make older and disabled Americans particularly vulnerable to economic downturns. He also noted that Social Security recipients, who often live on fixed incomes, are more likely to spend such funds rather than save them, helping further stimulate the economy.

“For these hard-hit Americans, every dollar counts and some extra help from the federal government could make the difference between housing and homelessness, and between health and sickness,” Whitehouse wrote yesterday. “To ensure that every eligible elderly and disabled American receives assistance, I suggest exploring an enhanced Social Security benefit for a limited period of time.”

David Sloane, Senior Vice President for Government Relations and Advocacy at AARP, said: “AARP commends Senator Whitehouse for drawing attention to the many older and disabled individuals who are struggling in these hard times and for urging that they be included in the economic recovery package.”

Early last year, Whitehouse successfully pushed for Social Security recipients to be included in legislation that provided rebate checks, starting at $300, to low- and middle-income Americans. More than 138,000 retired Rhode Islanders received Social Security benefits in 2007 with Social Security benefits averaging just $12,956 per year.

The tax-free rebates were sent automatically to eligible Americans who filed a federal income tax return for 2007. Because many Social Security and VA beneficiaries do not normally file a tax return and had to file a separate form to receive a rebate, Whitehouse pressed the IRS to extend its mid-October deadline to allow more people to file.

“By supplementing regular Social Security checks, we could deliver assistance without designing a new delivery mechanism or requiring any paperwork from the recipients,” Whitehouse wrote.


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