2009-10-09 / Top Stories

Politicians Fight For COLA

Pheffer, Weiner and Gulluscio. Pheffer, Weiner and Gulluscio. District Leader Frank Gulluscio, Congressman Anthony Weiner, State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer blasted the plan to deny Social Security recipients cost of living adjustments (COLA) in 2010 and 2011. This would be the first time since 1975 that there wouldn't be an increase to Social Security payments.

Additionally, Gulluscio, Weiner, Addabbo and Pheffer are kicking off a petitioning effort calling on Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue to reassess the proposed freeze and support a regional cost adjustment and a true COLA for Social Security recipients.

"For many seniors, Social Security is a lifeline," said Gulluscio. "Even in this recession, the cost of living is on the rise. In New York City, the cost of everything from medication to milk has risen. Our seniors need a regional cost of living adjustment; it is not a luxury but a necessity. Seniors should not have to choose between eating and paying their rent."

Weiner said, "To say that the costs for seniors will not go up for two years is to pretend that the laws of economic gravity don't apply to older people. Rent is up. Food prices are up. Bus and subway fares are up. Healthcare costs are up. The purpose of the COLA is to help seniors keep up. The Social Security Administration seems to have forgotten that mission."

Both the Obama administration and the Congressional Budget Office are forecasting that Social Security beneficiaries will not receive any cost of living adjustments in fiscal years 2010 or 2011 because of the pronounced recession in the US. The net result of no 2010 COLA means that the millions of Social Security recipients will see their monthly benefit check remain flat.

Regardless of the recession, New York City seniors have been hit with growing costs. Seniors signing leases in rent-controlled apartments saw a 6 percent increase; food prices in the area have gone up by 1.4 percent in the last year according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics; premiums for the Medicare prescription drug plans will increase 7 percent from an average monthly premium of $28 in 2009 to $30 in 2010; and the cost to ride a bus or subway has risen by 10 percent for seniors. "As a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Aging, I believe it is important to raise awareness of this critical issue because the planned freeze on Social Security payments would put an undue burden on our seniors, particularly in the weak economy," said Addabbo.

"Protecting our seniors is vital," said Pheffer. "Social Security must allow for increases in the cost of basic essentials. Seniors are paying increased co-pays for doctor visits and medicine, increases in rent, taxes, food and transportation. Social Security must keep up with these cost of living increases, anything less is unconscionable."

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