Lincoln Pushes for $250 Economic Relief Payment for Arkansas’s Social Security Beneficiaries Amid Lack of Benefits’ Increase

Lincoln, Chair of Finance’s Social Security Subcommittee, says $250 economic relief payments
would bring $160 million into Arkansas economy

Washington – U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) today is pushing for a $250 economic relief payment for Arkansas’s seniors, veterans, and other retirees who will not receive a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) next year due to the struggling economy.

“Today, seniors in Arkansas and across the nation received unwelcome news when the Social Security Administration announced that beneficiaries will not receive an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2010,” Lincoln said.  “This will place undue hardships on as many as 600,000 seniors, 25,000 veterans and 9,000 rail road retirees in Arkansas who rely upon this increase to help make ends meet.”

Lincoln is calling for a $250 economic relief payment that would not only compensate these Arkansans for the lack of an increase, but also would provide a proportionally larger payment to lower-income seniors and veterans.

These payments would bring an estimated $160 million into Arkansas’s economy, helping an expected 635,000 Arkansans. In 18 Arkansas counties, more than 20 percent of seniors 65 and older live in poverty and depend upon Social Security benefits for their livelihoods.  The counties with the highest level of seniors living in poverty are Lee County at 27.6 percent, Woodruff County at 27.0 percent, and Searcy County at 26.6 percent.  Five Arkansas counties are home to more than 20,000 Social Security beneficiaries each—Pulaski (66,195), Benton (34,340), Washington (27,215), Garland (26,820), and Saline (20,260).

“For over 30 years, cost-of-living increases have protected the purchasing power of our seniors by ensuring their benefits keep pace with inflation. For those on fixed incomes, the absence of an increase in their Social Security benefits is simply unacceptable. Faced with the ever-increasing costs of health care, prescription drugs, energy and transportation that make up a disproportionate part of spending for seniors, they are also burdened with declining pensions and home values.

“I am grateful that the President is engaged on this issue and has endorsed a proposal to help alleviate their financial burden by providing an economic relief payment of $250. This $250 would not only compensate for the lack of an increase, but would provide a proportionally larger payment to lower-income seniors and veterans.  As Chair of the Social Security Subcommittee on the Senate Finance Committee, I will work with the President, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, and other Members of Congress to ensure that our seniors are not hit hardest by what would essentially be a cut in benefits, especially during times of economic difficulty.  Also, I believe we should do this in a responsible way that does not increase the deficit.

“I believe in the promise our government made to working Americans, that if we work hard, Social Security will be there to help us in our golden years.  I will continue working to ensure our government makes good on that promise for current and future generations.”