The federal government announced today that Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 5.9% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 2022.  That’s about $92 extra per month for the average beneficiary.  According to USA Today, “the sharp increase is tied to a COVID-19-fueled spike in inflation after years of paltry consumer price increases.”  The 5.9% COLA is the largest in nearly forty years.

“This is welcome news for seniors, who need a boost to confront ever-rising living costs. However, the fact that this is the highest COLA since 1982 does not speak well for Social Security’s ability to keep pace with those expenses.  The average COLA for the past ten years was only 1.65%.  In three of the past 12 years the COLA was zero. Were it not for COVID-related inflation, the COLA for 2022 likely would have been more in line with the modest increases of decades past.” – Max Richtman, President & CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

Meanwhile, the cost of essentials such as housing, food, and health care have skyrocketed. So, while an average $92 per month increase in Social Security benefits is helpful, it may only make a dent in many seniors’ ability to pay their monthly bills.  Not to mention that an increase in Medicare premiums – to be announced in November – will take a bite out of most beneficiaries’ COLAs.

More than half of seniors receive over 50 percent of their income from Social Security, and it provides at least 90 percent of income for more than one-in-five seniors. They deserve a COLA formula that reflects their spending patterns.  The current formula, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W), simply does not. That’s why we support legislation to adopt the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E), which is designed to calculate the true impact of inflation on seniors.

But the problem runs deeper. Seniors haven’t received an increase in their baseline monthly benefits in fifty years.  The average annual benefit is only a few thousand dollars above the federal poverty line. It is time to boost benefits for everyone on Social Security.  Rep. John Larson (D-CT) has for years been leading an effort, which we support, to expand Social Security, including an across-the-board benefit increase — and a specific boost for lower income workers.

“Congress has failed seniors and that needs to change. Next week we will be introducing the bill, Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust, to strengthen Social Security and expand benefits. The time is now to enhance Social Security.” – Rep. John Larson, 10/13/21

America’s seniors have paid into the system their entire working lives. They shouldn’t have to walk a financial tightrope every month, in constant fear of falling into poverty.  This Congress, representing the wealthiest country in the world, must do better for its older – and most vulnerable – citizens.