Senior Spotlight By John Toscano
$300 Benefit For Seniors, Disabled Vets Economic
Stimulus Plan, Rebates For Others
Democrats in the Senate last week were rebuffed in adding additional benefits to an economic stimulus plan already passed by the House of Representatives. They did succeed in adding a benefit for about 20 million Social Security recipients and 250,000 disabled veterans.
The Senate-approved measure was swiftly passed by the House by a vote of 380 to 84. President George W. Bush had earlier said he would sign the bill.
Under the final Senate bill passed, Social Security members will receive $300 each this year, and disabled veterans will get a similar amount. That bill passed by an 81-16 vote. The final vote needed to add on the Social Security and disabled vets benefits was cast by Senator John McCain, who seems headed to win the Republican nomination for president.
McCain had not voted on earlier bills, but came forward to cast a vote on the final bill when he learned it was one vote short of passage.
Leading Republican and Democratic legislators in Congress said they were reassured by Bush that he would sign the final bill passed, which added the benefit for Social Security members and the disabled vets.
The entire package comes out to $168 billion. The Treasury Department said checks would start being distributed in early May, after the income tax filing season ends on April 15.
Discussions on an economic stimulus plan started when signs of recession and an ailing economy started coming out of Washington several weeks ago. Bush then called for such a plan in his State of the Union address.
The bill passed by the House, which the president announced would be the only stimulus he would agree to, and the bill subsequently passed by both houses, included the following provisions:
•Payments to about 20 million Social Security recipients and 250,000 disabled veterans who would have been left out of the original plan because they do not earn income.
•Tax rebates of up to $600 for individuals and up to $1,200 for couples filing jointly. Additional sums would go to families at the rate of $300 per child.
•Individuals who pay less than $300 in income taxes would receive a minimum rebate of $300.
The $168 billion stimulus legislation also includes incentives for businesses to help spur the economy. The present $125,000 that businesses are allowed to write off as business expenses is doubled to $250,000 in the stimulus package.
The final measure which was passed specifies that illegal immigrant workers will not receive any of the benefits.
Overall, rebates will go only to people earning under $75,000 a year and couples earning up to $150,000 a year. Individuals and married couples earning more than those caps will not receive any payments.
Last week, before the Senate passed their stimulus bill, Democrats wanted to also include home energy subsidies for low-income families, extended unemployment benefits, tax credits for alternative energy and tax credits for the coal industry but all were rejected by the Republicans.
'SEEDS FOR SENIORS' PROGRAM CITED: The Queens Botanical Garden's acclaimed "Seeds for Seniors" hands-on horticultural workshop for the elderly has been cited as an exemplary part of the city's new Seniors Meet the Arts program, known as SM(ART)S recently.
The program brings together 150 senior centers from throughout the city with 57 cultural institutions to enrich the lives of seniors. At the ceremony where the Queens Botanical Garden was cited, Donald Rubin, co-founder of the Rubin Museum, which conducts a SM(ART)S program at the United Hindu Cultural Council Senior Center at 118-09 Sutter Ave. in South Ozone Park, was also present.
Rubin said his museum's program features Himalayan paintings, sculpture and textiles, many with a Buddhist theme, and offers free admission to seniors at the South Ozone Park Center the first Monday of every month.
QBG Executive Director Susan Lacerte stated that the Seeds for Seniors program teaches seniors to make mini-greenhouses, terrariums, and dish gardens to add a touch of green to their environment.
Lacerte added: "It's very therapeutic and lifeaffirming. Seeds for Seniors can be taught at the Garden or off site." For more information, call the QBG at 718-886-3800, ext. 329.