06.24.19

Whitehouse, Engel Make Bicameral Push to Increase Social Security COLA

Washington,  DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) have introduced bicameral legislation that will ensure American seniors receive adequate annual support from their Social Security benefits.

The Guaranteed 3% COLA For Seniors Act would guarantee every senior a reasonable Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) with an annual floor of no less than 3 percent.  The bill would also update the formula that the government uses to determine seniors’ yearly COLA to one that better reflects the costs seniors typically face.

“Seniors paid into Social Security over decades of hard work with the expectation that they would be able to rely on those benefits to help pay for basic necessities like food, housing, and medical care in retirement,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “The federal government needs to provide an annual cost of living adjustment that actually keeps up with rising costs and protects the purchasing power of Social Security benefits.”

“Our seniors have lived with paltry Social Security increases for too long.  It’s time to revamp the formula and guarantee older Americans are given the support they need and deserve,” Congressman Engel said.  “The Guaranteed 3% COLA For Seniors Act, which I have introduced consistently since 2009, will ensure that New York’s 230,000 beneficiaries receive benefits that keep pace with the increasing cost of living and take into account expenses incurred most by seniors.  This year, I’m proud to have Senator Whitehouse join me as sponsor on the Senate side.”

Annual Social Security COLA increases are currently tied to a measure of inflation called the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).  This index doesn’t adequately measure the expenses incurred by older Americans, such as doctor visits and medication costs.  This bill would direct the Bureau of Labor Statistics to develop the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E), which would track seniors’ expenses and use that data to determine COLA adjustments.  Using this index would ensure COLA adjustments better reflect the true living costs that seniors face.

“Since 2010, the COLA has been zero 3 times — in 2010, 2011 and 2016.  In 2017 the COLA was just 0.3 percent.  In fact, over the past 9 years, the COLA has averaged just 1.4 percent, just half the 3 percent average from 1999 to 2009.  This legislation strengthens Social Security benefits for all retirees providing a protection more than 68 million Social Security recipients can count on,” said Mary Johnson, Policy Analyst for The Senior Citizens League.

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