Help is on the way, if a band of senators is successful.
Every Social Security beneficiary would get an emergency grant of $581, under the SAVE Benefits Act introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and co-sponsored by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Bernie Sanders and 14 other senators, Schumer announced yesterday.
The recent cost of living increase given to Social Security recipients – less than one-third of one per cent – works out to about $5 a month and doesn’t begin to cover the increase in prices for groceries, medicine, rent and utilities, facing seniors and disabled people who rely on the federal program, Schumer said in a Stuyvesant Town speech.
Why is this year’s cost of living adjustment so paltry? The federal government calculates increases based on a formula that is heavily tied “to the price of gas, which is currently low. If you take energy out of the mix, this formula would show a rise in prices by over two per cent last year,” Schumer explained.
“Two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for over half of their income, and they depend on these incremental increases to keep up with prices,” Schumer said.
The one-time check he is proposing is equivalent to what the average senior spends on groceries over three months, he added.
Should the legislation pass, the government would fully finance the one-time checks by closing a loophole that benefits corporate compensation packages that exceed $1 million.
Approximately 1,194,570 Social Security beneficiaries, including 553,940 senior citizens and 503,200 disabled workers, live in NYC, according to Schumer.
The bill is especially needed for people receiving Social Security who live in NYC, said Melba Torres, 55, who was born with cerebral palsy, and who has relied on Social Security disability payments since 2008, when she was hit by a bus. “Everything is getting outrageously expensive. I have to budget down to the cent,” said Torres.
Torres, who travels in a motorized wheelchair and has diabetes, says by the end of the month she sometimes has to wash her hair with soap because she can’t afford shampoo, and “eats a lot of oatmeal,” because her monthly budget for food cannot exceed $200. A movie is out of the question.
Schumer’s legislation, she said, “would be a one-shot deal, but would really be a blessing,” said Torres. She would love, she said, to have just “$20 you could put in a sock” to save for a special occasion.