By: Stacy M. Brown/NNPA
In the face of increasing pressure from elected Republican officials to reform safety net programs, the Social Security Administration has announced a 3.2% increase in benefits for 2024. Starting December 29, recipients of Social Security will see an average boost of $50 per month in their retirement benefits, a change attributed to the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) calculated based on inflation readings from July, August, and September.
“Social Security and SSI benefits will increase in 2024, and this will help millions of people keep up with expenses,” stated Kilolo Kijakazi, acting commissioner of Social Security.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), which showed increases of 2.6% in July, 3.4% in August, and 3.6% in September, is where the adjustment comes from.
Despite this positive news for Social Security beneficiaries, a political battle looms over the long-term fate of these crucial programs. During the 2022 campaign season, several Republican incumbents, and candidates, including Florida Sen. Rick Scott and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, advocated for significant changes, including cuts and the need for annual funding reauthorization.
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Scott’s 11-point legislative agenda included a provision proposing the expiration of all federal laws every five years, which he argued would best serve to “preserve those programs.” Johnson, who narrowly won reelection, called for transforming all mandatory spending into discretionary funds, asserting this would enable better evaluation and problem-solving for programs facing financial strain.
Unsuccessful GOP Senate candidates in various states also floated proposals to end at least one of the programs through privatization or significant cuts, highlighting a growing divide on the issue within the Republican Party.
Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security each constitute critical pillars of support for a significant portion of the American population, particularly seniors and those with limited means. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Social Security alone accounts for most older Americans’ monthly income, with nearly a quarter relying on it for 90% of their income.
According to the Social Security Administration, over 67 million people received benefits in 2023, with nearly 90% of those over 65 relying on the program. Stanford University’s white paper on Social Security outlines its historical development, emphasizing its role in safeguarding retirees against financial insecurity.
While the program remains crucial for many, the same Stanford paper highlights that demographic and economic shifts pose challenges to its long-term financial stability. The authors contend that policymakers must confront the issue and explore potential reforms to ensure the program’s continued viability.
“Social Security is an essential program that provides critical support to millions of retirees, survivors, and disabled individuals,” the authors asserted. “While reforming Social Security is challenging, policymakers must act to address the program’s long-term funding shortfall and ensure that the program can continue to meet its important mission.”