Congress must act to protect and expand Social Security benefits
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Social Security is our nation’s No. 1 financial security and anti-poverty program. Over its 85 years it has never missed a payment and has been the foundation for Americans’ retirement. As the country continues to fight the ever-worsening coronavirus pandemic and having elected a new president and Congress, the urgent need to protect and expand Social Security benefits must be addressed.

Sixty four million Americans currently receive benefits and 178 million workers are paying into Social Security with each and every paycheck, expecting that Social Security will be there when they need it. As President-elect Biden has said, Social Security is a sacred obligation that Congress must uphold.

Some say we can’t afford to protect and expand Social Security now, during a global pandemic. However, those most harmed by the pandemic — the elderly, people of color, and especially women of color — are the same ones who rely on Social Security the most, and they desperately need a temporary emergency benefit increase.

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As chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee and co-chair of the Expand Social Security Caucus, I will again introduce an emergency bill to increase benefits for Social Security recipients during the pandemic and to fix an anomaly which will cut benefits significantly for those born in 1960, who are retiring in 2022, if Congress does not act. This anomaly is due to the sudden drop in wages caused by COVID-19, which affects the formula the Social Security Administration uses to calculate benefits.

We will also reintroduce a revised version of the Security 2100 Act in the 117th Congress, to improve benefits and ensure solvency for at least 75 years. We will again reach out to the Republicans, seeking their constructive support, in the hope that they will join us in aiding those most impacted by this virus. We are glad that President-elect Biden campaigned on both protecting and expanding Social Security and has called it a “sacred trust.” We look forward to working with the Biden administration, honoring that sacred trust, and incorporating his ideas into the Social Security 2100 Act.

Let’s be clear: COVID-19 further exposed the disparities that already existed before the pandemic. As John LewisJohn LewisHarris, CBC put weight behind activist-led National Black Voter Day Budowsky: High stakes drama for Biden, Manchin, Sinema Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise MORE pointed out, Social Security is also a civil rights issue and an economic development issue that is critical to women, millennials and veterans. According to leading economists, enhancing Social Security will help stimulate the economy. In 2014, Social Security benefits contributed $1.6 trillion to the national economy. People don’t hoard these benefits, they spend them and put the money right back into their local communities. This is a stimulus we need during this pandemic! This should be an issue that brings us together. The virus doesn’t attack your political affiliation; whether you’re Democrat or Republican, the pandemic affects us all. We need to unite and fight back.

More than 100 organizations support the Social Security 2100 Act including Social Security Works, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, NAACP, National Organization for Women, and Latinos for a Secure Retirement. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has also commended the bill.

We can — and we must — ensure Social Security’s solvency without cutting benefits or raising the retirement age. We have to act now to ensure American’s No. 1 economic security program is strengthened and secured for future generations.

No one gets wealthy on Social Security. It’s the nation’s lifeline and an earned benefit that provides only about $18,000 a year to an average retiree. 10,000 baby boomers a day become eligible for Social Security. But Congress hasn’t acted to strengthen the program in 37 years. Five million of our fellow Americans have paid into the program but receive a payment that’s below the poverty level. Members of Congress should ask themselves, could they live on that? This is in our hands and it is on our watch. Congress needs to act.

Larson represents the 1st District of Connecticut and is chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee and co-chair of the Expand Social Security Caucus.