For Americans who weren’t able to properly prepare for their retirement years, they will likely have to rely on Social Security benefits to cover most of their future expenses.
This particular situation, however, is more common than one would think, as recent data released by the Social Security Administration (SSA) revealed that approximately 20 percent of married couples and 40 percent of singles receive at least 90 percent of their income from Social Security payouts.
There is, though, a bill—known as the Social Security Enhancement and Protection Act—that has been reintroduced in Congress to help vulnerable Americans stay out of poverty while receiving their monthly checks from Social Security.
“We can make this program work better for the Americans who stand to benefit the most from it, including women, people of color, and low-wealth people. My bill … would recognize that providing care for a child is work so that the years in which a parent provides care for a young child count as a year of coverage for determining an individual’s Social Security benefits, renew support for students who are children of retired, deceased, or disabled workers, and improve the program’s special minimum benefit to better reach low-income workers,” the bill’s author Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) said in a statement.
“The bill would also provide additional security by increasing benefits for all beneficiaries twenty years after retirement so that individuals don’t outlive their nest eggs,” she continued.
One of the focuses of the measure is to increase the monthly checks for all beneficiaries by 5 percent once they have been retired for two decades. That adjustment would be gradually phased in beginning when seniors have reached sixteen years of eligibility.
The bill also would update the special minimum benefit, a floor for low-income individuals, to 100 percent of the current poverty level. This would apply to those who have paid into the program for at least thirty years and file when they reach full retirement age. The benefit would be adjusted to include workers with at least ten years of work history so that they can be eligible for the payouts.
In addition, the bill aims to apply childcare credits toward future program eligibility for parents of children under the age of six. These parents would receive one credit for each year a child under that age is in the home. This can be utilized for a maximum of five years, and that time would count toward the thirty years required for the special minimum benefit.
“I know that Social Security is both a vital safety net and too often the main or only retirement plan for so many. Social Security lifts millions out of poverty and provides needed income and financial stability to hard-working Americans in retirement, with a disability or after losing a loved one,” Moore said.
“That is why my proposal would help us ensure that Social Security does what it was intended to do: protect all older Americans from spending their retirement living in deep poverty,” she added.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.