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On 80th Anniversary of Social Security, Senator Schatz Introduces Legislation to Expand Social Security

The Safeguarding American Families and Expanding Social Security Act Would Increase Benefits for Families in Hawai‘i and Across the Country

Honolulu, HI – Last week, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) introduced the Safeguarding American Families and Expanding Social Security Act, legislation to expand Social Security for seniors and families in Hawai‘i and across the country.  The bill would increase benefits by about $65 per month, ensure the cost of living adjustments adequately reflect the living expenses of retirees, extend the life of the trust fund, and remove the wage cap to make sure all Americans contribute equally.  Eighty years ago, on August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act.

“In Hawai‘i, more than 250,000 people depend on Social Security, the most successful safety net program in American history,” said Senator Schatz. “With the number of retirees growing, we need to do everything we can to strengthen it.  Our legislation would expand Social Security and put more money in the hands of seniors who rely on it, strengthen the program for the next generation of retirees, and make sure everyone pays into the system equally.  After a lifetime of hard work, seniors deserve to retire with the dignity and benefits they have earned.”

In Hawai‘i, more than 250,000 people, or over 1 in 6 residents, rely on Social Security benefits.  In 2040, the number of Hawai‘i seniors is expected to grow and make up more than 20 percent of the population, making the need to expand the program even more critical.

Specifically, the Safeguarding American Families and Expanding Social Security Act would:

  • Strengthen Benefits by Reforming the Social Security Benefit Formula: To improve benefits for current and future Social Security beneficiaries, the legislation changes the method by which the Social Security Administration calculates Social Security benefits. This change will boost benefits for all Social Security beneficiaries by about $65 a month, but is targeted to help those in the low and middle of the income distribution, for whom Social Security has become an ever greater share of their retirement income.
  • Ensure that Cost of Living Adjustments Adequately Reflect the Living Expenses of Retirees: The bill changes the way the Social Security Administration calculates the Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA). To ensure that benefits better reflect cost increases facing seniors, future COLAs will be based on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).  Making this change to Social Security is expected to result in higher COLAs, ensuring that seniors are able to better keep up with the rising costs of essential items, like health care.
  • Extend the Life of the Trust Fund:  To help extend the life of the trust fund the legislation phases out the current taxable cap of $118,500 so that payroll taxes apply fairly to every dollar of wages earned.

The legislation’s supporters include Social Security Works, the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, the Alliance for Retired Americans, AFL-CIO, and the Kokua Council.

“We applaud Senator Brian Schatz for introducing the Safeguarding American Families and Expanding Social Security Act, which increases Social Security's modest benefits, including those of seniors, people with disabilities, children who are orphaned and others,” said Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works.  “In addition, by proposing a much more accurate cost of living adjustment, the legislation ensures that Social Security's modest benefits will not erode over time.”

“The Alliance for Retired Americans enthusiastically supports the Safeguarding American Families and Expanding Social Security Act, introduced today by Senator Brian Schatz of Hawai‘i, which will help address the nation’s retirement crisis,”
said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “Sixty-two percent of households aged 55-64 have saved less than one times their annual salary, not nearly enough to sustain a family. The Safeguarding American Families and Expanding Social Security Act will increase monthly payments for current retirees, base payments on the real costs seniors face when calculating benefits and make the Social Security system solvent for decades to come.”