The Senior Citizens League Campaigns for Stimulus Checks for Seniors


Last updated 11/9/2021 at 8:37pm | View PDF

The Senior Citizens League, an advocacy group for retired people based in Virginia, reported that Social Security benefits have increased just 55% over the past 20 years. In response, the group's is collecting signatures to get Congress to issue a stimulus check to every American senior for $1,400.

"The decision to initiate a campaign for a $1,400 stimulus checks for seniors came about due to my estimates of the highest COLA (cost of living adjustment) in four decades, 6.2%," Mary Johnson, the organization's Social Security and Medicare policy analyst, told The Good Life.

"The Senior Citizens League works to strengthen and defend Social Security and Medicare benefits, and it was obvious to us that older and disabled beneficiaries were facing some of the largest price increases in decades while their benefits in 2021 had only increased by 1.3%," she added.

"Our surveys of Social Security recipients indicated roughly 40% say they have no retirement savings at all. This is a finding similar to an estimate that the U.S. Government Accountability Office made in 2016 and updated in 2019 or so, which said about 48% of older households don’t have adequate savings for a retirement that can last up to 30 years."

As of September 12, The Senior Citizens League had collected more than 11,460 signatures on its petition for a $1,400 stimulus check for seniors, according to Johnson.

"We have been overwhelmed by an outpouring of support for a $1,400 stimulus check for Social Security recipients," she said. "These households feel that they have been left behind as far as some other emergency and stimulus programs go (e.g. child tax payments). They are grateful to have an opportunity to put this proposal forward.

"The comments that we have been getting indicate that a very high percentage are having trouble affording food and prescription drugs. The most recent batch from the past week describe some pretty dire situations. It was very distressing to me to read of a grandfather who had legal custody of two young children lose his housing."

It could be noted by opponents to the stimulus checks, however, that many seniors already benefit from other govrenment programs.

"A significant portion of the people who rely solely on Social Security benefits also have incomes and resources low enough to qualify for low-income programs such as SNAP, rental subsidies, Medicare Savings Programs, heating and cooling assistance," Robinson said. "However, those programs are based on income. A COLA as high as 6.2% would raise incomes and if the Federal Poverty Level doesn’t rise by a corresponding amount, then those individuals will likely see trims to their benefits. Some folks whose incomes are right on the borderline could lose that assistance altogether. According to my estimate, the CPI-U, which is used to adjust the Federal Poverty Level will not rise as much as the COLA, and thus cuts may be coming.

"In addition, middle income households who may have retirement savings would have tax repercussions when their incomes rise," she continued. "The income thresholds that subject Social Security benefits to taxation, have never been adjusted for income. Individuals with incomes of more than $25,000 and couples with incomes of only $32,000 are subject to tax."

However, stimulus payments are not treated as taxable income and would help lower-income Social Security recipients avoid low income program trims to their benefits, Johnson explained.

"The stimulus checks could help offset higher Medicare Part B premiums which the Medicare Trustees recently forecast would rise about $10 per month. from $148.50 to $158.50," she said. "Please note, this increase would still be greater than our estimated COLA increase, although our COLA estimate may change with tomorrow’s next batch of CPI data."

Rick Delaney, board chairman of the organization, has sent letters to the group's members explaining why the organization is pushing for the checks.

"Soaring inflation continues to knock a hole in the household finances of retired and disabled Social Security recipients," he wrote. "In 2021, Social Security benefits increased by just 1.3% raising the average benefit by only about $20 a month. $20 a month in a year where inflation was the highest its been in over 12 years!

"We’ve heard from many of our supporters telling examples about their skyrocketing expenses. People who have exhausted their retirement savings, who have started eating just one meal a day, cutting their pills in half, and many more examples of trying to make ends meet.

"We intend to ask Congress to help America’s seniors and disabled with a special stimulus and we need your help!"

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