October 16, 2010 in Nation/World

Obama urges $250 for seniors

One-time payment to aid Social Security recipients
Jordan Steffen Tribune Washington bureau

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will press Congress to send a one-time payment of $250 to senior citizens to help them get through another year without an increase in their Social Security benefits, White House officials said Friday.

The renewed call for those payments came shortly after the Social Security Administration announced that millions of retirees and disabled workers will see no cost-of-living adjustments for the second year in a row, a result of the low U.S. inflation rate.

Yet seniors are struggling through the current economic downturn, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday, and they can’t rely on their savings because of poor investment earnings.

The $250 Economic Recovery Payment would be akin to a similar benefit paid out by the federal government last year. That payment helped offset last year’s static Social Security rate for about 50 million recipients, according to the White House.

The idea met with support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who says the House will vote in November on a measure to provide the payments to Social Security recipients. News about the Social Security rate is just the latest piece of bad economic news – not just for seniors but for Obama and fellow Democrats trying to keep their majorities in the fall congressional elections.

But the plan faces opposition in the Senate, which defeated a similar measure last year, and among lawmakers concerned about long-term funding of the Social Security system.

Every year, the government automatically adjusts Social Security payments based on the nation’s inflation rate. For an increase in payments to occur, consumer prices must be higher than when the last increase was awarded, according to the Social Security Administration.

On average, retired workers currently receive nearly $1,200 a month. More than 58 million Americans receive monthly Social Security payments.

This is the second consecutive year an adjustment has not been awarded, unprecedented in the 35-year history of automatically adjusted payments.

Shortly before the SSA made its announcement Friday, the Labor Department released its most recent figures for the consumer price index. The figures showed that consumer prices were up 1.1 percent compared to last year but remained below what they were in 2008.

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