House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John B. Larson has introduced landmark legislation, Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust, which will expand benefits and strengthen Social Security. The legislation has nearly 200 cosponsors and has been endorsed by more than 100 advocacy groups.
“The pandemic has only underscored what we already knew and has exacerbated systemic inequities — current benefits are not enough! 5 million seniors are living in poverty due to longstanding discrimination in the labor force that affects mostly people of color and women,” said House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John B. Larson. “These are our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and neighbors. For too long, Congress has forsaken its duty to enhance benefits. It’s time that we act now.”
The legislation provides an increase for all beneficiaries that is the equivalent to about 2% of the average benefit. The US faces a retirement crisis and a modest boost in benefits strengthens the one leg of the retirement system that is universal and the most reliable. It also improves the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) formula to better reflect the costs incurred by seniors through adopting a CPI-E formula. This provision will help seniors who spend a greater portion of their income on health care and other necessities. Improved inflation protection will especially help older retirees and widows who are more likely to rely on Social Security benefits as they age.
U.S. Representative Val Demings, who is also running for Senate against Marco Rubio, is supporting the legislation. “Social Security is a sacred promise and it’s one that we must fulfill,” said Rep. Demings. “Our new legislation will increase benefits for Floridians, end 50 years of neglect towards Social Security, and ensure stability for our seniors. Florida seniors know how much their costs have increased, especially on critical items like medication. It is long past time that we increase the benefits paid by Social Security and ensure that every American can retire with dignity and the health care and financial support that they need. Without our legislation, Social Security is on a path towards future cuts. That is unacceptable. Our legislation is fully paid for, fiscally responsible, and keeps a promise to Floridians who have paid into Social Security their whole lives.”
The bill also aims to protect low-income workers using the logic that no one who paid into the system over a lifetime should retire into poverty. The new minimum benefit will be set at 25% above the poverty line and would be tied to wage levels to ensure that the minimum benefit does not fall behind.
“We commend Congressman Larson for his years-long commitment to expanding and strengthening Social Security,” said Max Richtman, President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “Rep. Larson understands that too many seniors are struggling to meet basic living expenses, like housing, prescription drugs, and health care. He knows that Social Security wasn’t set in stone when it was created in 1935, and that the program was intended to be expanded as seniors’ needs change. His legislation gives seniors a much-needed boost in benefits and an improved COLA formula – and extends Social Security’s solvency. We are gratified that so many of Rep. Larson’s colleagues are signing-on as cosponsors – and hope that the House will, at long last, enact this crucial piece of legislation for American seniors.”
Other proposed changes would improve benefits for widows and widowers in two income household, repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) that currently penalize many public servants, end the 5-month waiting period to receive disability benefits, provide caregiver credits to ensure that caregivers are not penalized in retirement for taking time out of the workforce to care for children or other dependents, extend dependent benefits for students through age 26 and includes part-time students, and increase access to benefits for children who live with grandparents or other relatives.
Social Security is considered either the most important government program or an important program by 96 percent of Americans, according to a recent AARP survey.
The full bill text can be found here.