Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia/CaptJayRuffins
The Social Security Administration Queens office is located in the Joseph P. Addabbo Federal Building on Jamaica Avenue and 158th Street.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Following the Social Security Administration’s announcement of a 1.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security beneficiaries in 2021, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), in collaboration with Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and John Larson (D-Conn.), have proposed emergency legislation to increase the 2021 COLA to 3 percent.
According to the Senior Citizens League, COLAs averaged 3 percent between 1999 and 2009. Over the past decade, however, annual COLAs have averaged just 1.4 percent. In fact, of the years in which the Social Security COLA has been increased, 1.3 percent is the second-lowest increase.
According to Meng, the recent SSA announcement continues the distressing trend of inadequate annual Social Security COLAs. As a result, the purchasing power of the Social Security COLA has continued to decline along with seniors’ standard of living. Social Security recipients have lost nearly a third of their buying power since 2000, she said.
In addition to ever-rising health care and prescription drug costs, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected seniors’ cost-of-living in other areas, Meng noted, including increased costs for food and nutrition, deliveries, energy and heating, out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 treatment, and more. Other added costs include personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, as well as internet and data plans which are needed to help counter the negative effects of isolation.
“COVID-19 has brought unprecedented suffering for millions of Americans, especially seniors who have struggled to afford everyday expenses,” Meng said on Friday. “The meager 1.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment is simply insufficient for those who depend on this critical social safety net program, and demonstrates a need for long-term fix to the COLA formula. I’m honored to help introduce legislation that would ensure our seniors have the financial support they need and deserve, especially during this time of crisis.”
Last Tuesday, the Social Security Administration announced that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for approximately 70 million Americans will increase 1.3 percent in 2021. The 1.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment will begin with benefits payable to more than 64 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2021. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on Dec. 31, 2020. The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to the SSA.
Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $142,800 from $137,700.
Social Security and SSI beneficiaries are normally notified by mail starting in early December about their new benefit amount. Most people who receive Social Security payments will be able to view their COLA notice online through their personal My Social Security account. People may create or access their My Social Security account online at socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.