Fourth stimulus checks for seniors? Why one group says payments are vital

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(NEXSTAR) – As officials work to project the long term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, one group is calling on Congress to issue a fourth round of stimulus checks, just for older Americans.

Nonpartisan advocacy group The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) is warning that the cost of goods and services is rising for people with fixed incomes, months before next year’s federal cost-of-living bump.

Government economic experts estimated recent increases in inflation mean the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2022 will approach 6%, a whopping jump from the 1.3% COLA awarded for this year.

Some of that may go for higher Medicare costs, however. The Medicare “Part B” premium for outpatient coverage was projected to rise by $10 a month in 2022, to $158.50 under the report’s intermediate assumptions. The official number won’t be released until later this year.

According to The Senior Citizens League, older Americans are already under pressure from other rising, unavoidable costs such as food, housing and transportation.

Now, The Senior Citizens League is mounting a campaign to urge Congress to pass a fourth round of stimulus checks that would send $1,400 payments to Social Security recipients only.

The group states on their petition:

Social Security benefits are one of the few types of income in retirement adjusted for inflation.  But soaring inflation has taken a toll on household finances of retired and disabled Social Security recipients.  In 2021 Social Security benefits increased by just 1.3 percent raising the average benefit by only about $20 a month.  But about 86 percent of Social Security recipients surveyed say their expenses increased by much more than that amount. 

TSCL officials said an email that went out last week to seniors prompted more than 100 replies, Mary Johnson, a Social Security and Medicare policy analyst with the group told CNBC.

“We have really hit a nerve with that first email,” Johnson said, adding that many of those who replied described having to ration food and medicine. “It was an immediate response of support for the idea.”

Survey findings released by the TSCL in August showed that 44% of older households identified food as the fastest growing cost in 2021, followed by housing (24%) and medical (19%).

New projections also paint a grim picture for the solvency Social Security and Medicare. The annual trustees report found that Social Security’s massive trust fund will be unable to pay full benefits in 2034 instead of last year’s estimated exhaustion date of 2035.

The depletion date for Medicare’s trust fund for inpatient care remained unchanged from last year, estimated in 2026. The full impact from the coronavirus pandemic will take several more years to play out.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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