Proposes $2,400 Monthly Increase
By Francis Taylor, Executive Editor
Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) formally reintroduced the Social Security Expansion Act to Congress earlier this year, and this time, he had a lot more support from fellow lawmakers pushing the initiative.
The Social Security Expansion Act was first introduced on June 9 by Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). Under terms of the bill, anyone who is a current Social Security recipient, or who will turn 62 in 2023, would receive an extra $200 in each monthly check. Meaning, Social Security recipients could get an additional $2,400 a year in benefits if the bill wins approval, something seniors would no doubt welcome as inflation wipes out their annual cost-of-living increases.
While the initial June 9 introduction of the measure has remained dormant, Sanders and a new coalition of supporters, including cosigners Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Val Hoyle (D-Ore.), have renewed interest amid proposed cuts to Social Security as the U.S. faces its latest debt ceiling crisis.
The latest draft of the bill also provides a way forward for the severely underfunded program, ensuring that future generations can receive benefits through 2096 by taxing the highest earners in the country. According to a press release from Sanders’ office, this will be done “all without raising taxes by one penny on over 93% of American households that make $250,000 or less.”
“Our job is to expand Social Security so that every senior in America can retire with the dignity that they deserve and every person with a disability can live with the security they need, Sanders said. “The legislation that we are introducing today will expand Social Security benefits by $2,400 a year and will extend the solvency of Social Security for the next 75 years by making sure that the wealthiest people in our society pay their fair share into the system. Right now, a Wall Street CEO who makes $30 million pays the same amount into Social Security as someone who makes $160,000 a year. Our bill puts an end to that absurdity which will allow us to protect Social Security for generations to come while lifting millions of seniors out of poverty.”
Sen. Warren added, “As House Republicans try to use a manufactured debt ceiling crisis to cut the Social Security that Americans have earned, I’m working with Senator Sanders to expand Social Security and extend its solvency by making the wealthy pay their fair share, so everyone can retire with dignity.”
For their part, GOP leaders are also stating that they are not interested in cuts to Social Security or Medicare. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made remarks on the subject as recently as Feb. 14. This sentiment was echoed by Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who said that cuts to Social Security and Medicare should be “completely off the table,” in January.
Beyond the chatter around the debt ceiling crisis, the Social Security Expansion Act bill is timely for a couple of reasons. First, it follows a Social Security Administration announcement in 2022 that Americans will stop receiving their full Social Security benefits in about 13 years without actions to bolster the program.
It also comes during a period of historically high inflation that has a particularly big impact on seniors living on fixed incomes, many of whom rely solely on Social Security payments. According to the press release from Senator Sanders’ office: “Nearly 40 percent of seniors rely on Social Security for a majority of their income; one in seven rely on it for more than 90 percent of their income; and nearly half of Americans aged 55 and older have no retirement savings at all.”
The new bill aims to ease the financial strain by boosting each recipient’s monthly check. The average monthly Social Security check was about $1,658 as of Dec. 2022, meaning a $200 increase would represent a 12% boost.
More than 50 organizations have also endorsed the bill and the measure is expected to move to the House of Representatives for a vote before the August recess.