Rep. Linda Sanchez Introduces the Strengthening Social Security Act in U.S. House

This week, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), introduced the Strengthening Social Security Act, H.R. 3118, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would increase Social Security benefits by approximately $70 per month by modifying the formula used to calculate benefits. In sharp contrast to the chained CPI benefit cut, the Strengthening Social Security Act would also increase Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA’s) by using a COLA formula that more accurately reflects the living expenses of Social Security beneficiaries. The bill also extends the life of the Social Security trust fund by gradually eliminating the payroll tax cap so that the wealthiest Americans contribute their fair share. The bill is the House companion to S. 567, introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) in March. You can learn more about the Strengthening Social Security Act at http://tinyurl.com/nuyd7zs. To ask your Representative to co-sponsor the bill, go to http://tinyurl.com/l3lhvp2.

“At a time when the retirement income deficit is $6.6 trillion, the American people are calling for strengthening – not cutting – Social Security,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “It is essential that Congress work to strengthen this lifeline of retirement, disability and survivors’ security to ensure that Americans of all ages can count on the benefits that they have been promised.”

Census Data: Social Security Kept Over 15 Million Americans Out of Poverty in 2012
According to a new report released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the country’s poverty rate and real household median income (adjusted for inflation) have remained essentially unchanged since last year’s report. This is an improvement over recent years, when poverty increased and median household income declined. The report also included a Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which gauges the impact of various federal benefit programs on poverty. According to the SPM, Social Security kept 15.3 million people out of poverty in 2012. The data also revealed that out of pocket medical costs are the most common cause of poverty. Go to http://tinyurl.com/kxqwn5e to view the report. Analysis from thinkprogress.com is at http://tinyurl.com/lopbek5, and the Economic Policy Institute has some of the key numbers at http://tinyurl.com/k5mqy3b.

“While it is good news that the bleeding from the great recession appears to have halted, we need more than just stagnation,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Wall Street may have recovered from the recession, but the vast majority of Americans, including seniors, are still struggling to stay on their feet. In these economically perilous times, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are more important than ever.”

Minimum Wage and Overtime Protections Extended to Home Care Workers
The Obama administration announced this week that home care workers who care for seniors and disabled Americans will be covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act starting in 2015. This means that it will be legally required for home care workers to be paid at least minimum wage and to receive time-and-a-half overtime payment when they work more than 40 hours a week. The majority of American workers already receive these protections, but home care workers have been exempt because they were classified as “companionship services,” the same category as baby sitters. The New York Times has more information on the new protections at http://tinyurl.com/lb2qkw8.

“This decision is good news for seniors as well as for home care workers,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “The number of older Americans requiring assistance at home is expected to double by 2030. By providing home care workers with fair compensation for their labor, we can ensure that there will be more high quality workers to meet this need.”

Missouri Alliance Helps Defeat Dangerous Anti-Senior and Anti-Union Legislation
Thanks to the hard work of a broad coalition of activists, including the Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans, two toxic bills were defeated by a bipartisan coalition in Missouri’s General Assembly last week. One piece of legislation, HB 253, would have implemented a tax on seniors’ prescription drugs and forced cuts to education and health care in order to pay for tax cuts on the wealthiest Missourians. The other, SB 29, would have weakened public employee unions and hurt thousands of middle class workers. The Kansas City Star has more at http://tinyurl.com/mta5yto.

“We are very proud of the Missouri Alliance and their allies,” said Ms. Easterling. “These extremist bills were supported by corporate money and lobbyists, but they proved to be no match for a dedicated group of activists.”

New Hampshire Alliance Demonstrates in Front of Senator Ayotte’s Office
The New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans has organized weekly demonstrations in front of the Manchester office of Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to ask her to protect retirees in the upcoming Congressional budget battles. Retirees wave signs and blow whistles to make sure Senator Ayotte gets the message loud and clear: No cuts to Social Security benefits! The latest demonstration was held yesterday. For a photo, go to http://tinyurl.com/lkyamc2.

New Film Exposes Rise of Income Inequality in America
Inequality for All, a new film featuring former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, is coming to theaters on September 27th. The film documents the dramatic increase in income inequality in America in the last thirty years through gripping personal stories, interviews with experts, and compelling graphics.  To find a showing of the movie near you, go to http://tinyurl.com/nj6d3ae.

Detroit Retirees at Risk of Losing Pensions Tell Their Stories in Court
This Thursday, over 50 Detroit residents spoke out against the city’s decision to file for bankruptcy at a court hearing held by Judge Steven Rhodes, who is hearing the bankruptcy case. The speakers included many retirees who are at risk of losing their hard earned pensions due to the bankruptcy. These men and women told compelling stories of working thirty years or more at physically demanding jobs, only to be at risk of falling into poverty if their pensions and medical benefits are cut or eliminated. Rhodes said that he will consider the retirees’ testimony in making his final decision on Detroit’s eligibility to file for bankruptcy, which will come after an Oct. 23rd trial. The Detroit Free Press has more on the hearing at http://tinyurl.com/kopyago.

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Posted 13:50PM on September 20 2013 by Linda Benesch