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Congress Considers Making Relief a Reality

When Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., goes grocery shopping in her Long Island district, she sees prices going up. When Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., talks with older people in his state, he hears about higher fuel costs for the coming winter.

What’s not going up, however, are Social Security payments. For the first time in decades, Social Security beneficiaries will not get a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

DeFazio, McCarthy, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., are among those who have proposed a one-time payment to make up for the lack of COLA. But their efforts are facing a cost crunch.

McCarthy has proposed a bill to provide relief of $150 per Social Security beneficiary, paid for by raising the amount of income subject to the FICA tax. That amount also is supposed to stay flat because of the lack of inflation, but raising it as if inflation were in play would bring in $8 billion—more than covering the plan’s $7.5 billion cost.

DeFazio and Sanders would provide $250 in relief to all retirees and cover the $13.9 billion cost by applying the FICA tax to earnings between $250,000 and $359,000.

AARP urges Congress to provide $250 in relief, says AARP CEO A. Barry Rand, because “skyrocketing health care costs, shattered nest eggs and now stagnant Social Security benefits” have hit older Americans particularly hard.