Washington President Barack Obama called Wednesday on Congress to approve $250 payments to more than 50 million seniors to make up for no increase in Social Security next year.
The Social Security Administration is scheduled to announce today that there will be no cost of living increase next year. By law, increases are pegged to inflation, which has been negative this year.
It would mark the first year without an increase in Social Security payments since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975.
“Even as we seek to bring about recovery, we must act on behalf of those hardest hit by this recession,” Obama said in a statement. “This additional assistance will be especially important in the coming months, as countless seniors and others have seen their retirement accounts and home values decline as a result of this economic crisis.”
Obama’s proposal is similar to several bills in Congress. The $250 payments would also go to those receiving veterans benefits, disability benefits, railroad retirees and retired public employees who don’t receive Social Security. Recipients would be limited to one payment, even if they qualified for more. The White House put the cost at $13 billion. Obama said he would not allow the payments to come out of the Social Security trust funds, further eroding the finances of the retirement program. Social Security already is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes in each of the next two years.
However, Obama did not offer any alternatives to finance the payments. A senior administration official said Obama was open to borrowing the money, increasing the federal budget deficit. The official, who requested anonymity, was not authorized to speak on the record.
Obama also announced Wednesday that the IRS would soon issue tax guidance preventing reductions in contribution limits for certain retirement funds, including 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts. There has been concern among some in the financial industry that federal law could require the limits to be reduced because inflation will be negative this year.