Democrats call for stimulus to boost Social Security benefits by $200 a month
Senate Democrats on Saturday unveiled a plan to increase monthly Social Security benefits, veterans assistance and Supplemental Security Income benefits by $200 a month, which could further add to a stimulus bill that is now estimated to cost between $1.3 trillion and $1.4 trillion.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in calling for the expanded benefits to be added to the phase three stimulus bill.
The additional benefits, which would last through the end of 2021, would provide seniors, veterans and people with disabilities an extra $4,000 over the next two years.
“Immediately increasing Social Security benefits would put money in the pockets of seniors, veterans and people with disabilities during these uncertain times,” Schumer said in a statement. “Senate Democrats are committed to quickly delivering relief to the millions of Americans bearing the weight of this public health crisis.”
Warren said increasing Social Security benefits “would get money directly to millions of people quickly.”
“Social Security was created to respond to the Great Depression, and expanding it now will ensure this critical program helps us meet the challenge of the current crisis,” she added.
Proponents of expanded Social Security benefits made a strong push for the proposal during a House Democratic conference call Thursday morning.
Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee chairman, pitched his bill, The Emergency Social Security Benefits Improvement Act, on the call.
It would provide for a 2 percent across-the-board increase in Social Security benefits for 64 million people, increase the threshold for the special minimum benefit to 125 percent of the federal poverty level, and reduce taxes on benefits for low- and middle-income individuals and families.
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said it’s a popular idea in the House Democratic caucus.
“If we’re talking about bailing out certain industries, we’ve got to treat the most vulnerable population in this pandemic, our seniors, with the same priority,” he said. “It’s an appropriate economic stimulus. It’s also a critical part of retirement security and economic security for some of the worst-affected Americans.”
A major Democratic criticism of the Senate Republican stimulus plan is that it does not do enough to help people on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder who are especially vulnerable to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), one of the Democratic negotiators, on Friday faulted the GOP plan for proposing $1,200 rebate checks for adults earning up to $75,000 per year but much less for people who earn little to no federally taxable income.
“I couldn’t believe that they were talking about lowest-income people getting $600 and somebody making $75,000 getting twice as much as that, $1,200,” she said. “Those numbers don’t make any sense.”