Ohio Senator pushing for benefits for seniors

Published 8:50 am Thursday, December 9, 2010

Yesterday, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D) held a news conference call to discuss a vote that was to be held in the United States Senate to approve an emergency assistance payment to seniors receiving Social Security benefits.

Back in October, the Social Security Administration announced that there would be no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase for recipients in the upcoming year.

After that announcement, Brown and five other senators wrote a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asking him to support legislation to allow a one-time payment of $250 to be distributed to seniors in lieu of a COLA. The payment would help offset the cost of prescription drugs and other necessities.

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“All of us know enough people who depend on Social Security to know how important it is,” Brown said during the conference call. “We also know that more than half a million Ohio seniors are lifted out of poverty because they have Social Security benefits.”

According to a report by Strengthen Social Security, Social Security provides benefits to 2,021,900 Ohio residents, approximately one in every six. It also said that the median benefit received by a retired worker is about $14,400 annually.

“That’s not enough to live on if that’s all you have,” Brown said.

Brown said that the reason for not increasing COLA for the upcoming year is that there was so little inflation.

Brown also said that he was unsure if the legislation would pass, but that people that are still feeling the effects of a poor economy need it.

“It passes, if it does, because it’s needed,” he said. “It passes because seniors are more and more squeezed because they didn’t get a cost of living adjustment when health care costs have gone up and health care is close to half their budget in many cases.”

He said if the legislation does not pass, it would be because of a lack of support from Republicans.

“My republican colleagues oppose it because they say we can’t afford it, but at the same time they’re arguing for a $700 billion tax cut for people making over $250,000 and those people already get a $6,000 tax cut each.”

The one-time payment of $250 for seniors would cost about $13 billion, he said, but that it wouldn’t cause a systemic budget deficit.

Brown has also been reading letters at least once a week on the Senate floor from seniors who have had problems based on government policy and the economy.

“Almost all these letter come from people that have been employed for a long time, worked hard, played by the rules and end up in a very difficult position as they get older,” he said. “That’s the human face of why this is important.”

Of those participating in yesterday’s conference call were the Springfield News-Sun, The Northwest Signal, The Star Beacon, the Toledo Blade, the Sandusky Register, WOSU Radio and The Tribune.