Why one group is calling for fourth stimulus checks to help retirees stave off rising costs

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The Social Security cost-of-living adjustment for 2022 could be the highest it has been in decades.

The latest estimates from The Senior Citizens League, a nonpartisan senior group, point to a possible 6.2% increase for next year based on the latest Consumer Price Index data. In comparison, this year’s bump to benefits was just 1.3%.

Yet next year’s prospective increase comes as seniors are already facing rising costs. Moreover, higher Medicare Part B premiums and taxes on benefits could also eat away at that adjustment.

Now, The Senior Citizens League is hoping to do something about it.

Last week, the organization sent an email to supporters informing them of its plans to petition members of Congress for new $1,400 stimulus checks just for seniors.

“We have really hit a nerve with that first email,” said Mary Johnson, Social Security and Medicare policy analyst at The Senior Citizens League. “It was an immediate response of support for the idea.”

The group received more than 100 replies from seniors who shared their stories.

More than 50 of those messages mentioned having to cut down to one meal a day or trouble affording groceries, Johnson said. Many of the seniors who responded also said they were cutting back on prescription drugs.

While next year’s COLA could be the highest it’s been in years, for many seniors that is cause for concern, Johnson said.

A big COLA makes low-income seniors nervous that they are going to be facing adjustments to their Medicare costs, to food benefits, rental subsidies and that sort of thing, Johnson said.

New stimulus checks could be a way to get extra non-taxable income to them, Johnson said. The hope is that those payments could help defray the higher costs some would face if next year’s COLA bumps them into a higher tax bracket, prompting higher levies on their income and surcharges to their Medicare Part B premiums.

The Senior Citizens League plans to contact Congress with its campaign soon, Johnson said. The group plans to advocate for payments particularly for low- to middle-income retirees, though it is flexible on the terms of how the money would be distributed.

To be sure, polls show additional stimulus checks are widely popular with Americans. However, there has been no indication that Congress plans to include fourth payments in its busy fall legislative agenda.

A Data for Progress poll released in January found 65% of Americans are in favor of monthly $2,000 stimulus checks.

Moreover, a March Bankrate survey found that 61% of Americans said the last $1,400 stimulus checks, deployed earlier this year, wouldn’t last for more than three months.

The Senior Citizens League said many seniors have had to make financial adjustments since March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A recent survey found they were most likely to spend emergency savings, change their investments or withdraw more savings than usual. Moreover, some turned to food pantries or so-called SNAP (food subsidy) benefits, sought help with heating and cooling bills, Medicare or pharmacy assistance programs or rental assistance to get by.

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