2009-09-16 / Seniors

Three Lawmakers Want NYC COLA

Deeply concerned that there will be no cost of living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security recipients' benefits for the next two years, three Queens lawmakers have proposed creating a new regional COLA for expensive areas, such as New York City, where costs regularly increase beyond the average for the entire nation.

Ye s! The idea of a regional COLA was advanced several years ago by Congressmember Anthony Weiner. The Queens/Brooklyn lawmaker revived it as the "no COLA" edict was handed down by the Social Security Administration recently. His call for his plan to be enacted into law is supported by Assemblymember Nettie Mayersohn and state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, both Democrats from Flushing.

The COLA idea came about in order to enable SS recipients throughout the country to keep pace with rising consumer costs. To compute the COLA, cost of living figures throughout the country during the year are averaged.

The average usually results in a small percentage increase in benefits which begins with the first benefits check of the new year.

What triggered the lawmakers' action was the recent forecast by the Obama Administration and the Congressional Budget Office that there would be no COLA for 2010 and 2011 because of the current recession.

"The net result of no 2010 COLA means that the millions of Social Security recipients will see their monthly benefit check remain flat," Weiner pointed out. "Regardless of the recession, New York City seniors have been hit with growing costs." "The net result of no 2010 COLA means that the millions of Social Security recipients will see their monthly benefit check remain flat," Weiner pointed out. "Regardless of the recession, New York City seniors have been hit with growing costs." Despite the recession, Weiner and the state legislators argued, living costs are still going up across the country.

"The net result of no 2010 COLA means that the millions of Social Security recipients will see their monthly benefit check remain flat," Weiner pointed out. "Regardless of the recession, New York City seniors have been hit with growing costs."

Stavisky stated, "Social Security absolutely must accommodate for these increases because the people who depend on it have no other means of support." The COLA, she continued, "is meant to bridge the financial gap between last year's and the current year's costs".

Mayersohn noted, "Inflation may not be rising, but to pretend that the expenses of daily life are not is naive."

In the letter to Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael J. Astrue, all three lawmakers stated:

"New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and during these tough economic times, seniors need a cost of living adjustment that they depend on to make ends meet. With rising rents, food prices, and Medicare Part D premiums, many seniors will be forced even further into poverty when their checks arrive in 2010 without an increase—or in some cases lower than they were in 2009.

"As you know, I have long held the belief that calculating Social Security increases based solely on the Consumer Price Index is unfair and inaccurate. New York City seniors face higher costs for every item across the board, and for too long have seen their Social Security dollar stretched under the high cost of living.

"I am aware that the Social Security Administration and its trustees base their cost of living decisions on the Bureau of Labor and Statistics' Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, but this index does not accurately reflect the regional cost of living differences facing seniors."

27TH ANNUAL LEGISLATIVE FORUM: On Friday, October 2, the Queens InterAgency Council for the Aging (QICA) will hold its 27th annual legislative forum from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at Queens Borough Hall, Room 213, 120-55 Queens Blvd., Kew Gardens.

Marking its 39th anniversary year, QICA invites seniors, professionals, aging advocates and all those concerned about the aged to attend the forum. Queens Borough President Helen Marshall will attend and federal officials will discuss aging issues including healthcare reform, senior service cutbacks and senior poverty.

The forum is free and open to the public. Preregistration is advised. Call QICA at 718-268-5954, FAX 718-268-5952.

Registration starts at 9 a.m. along with a continental breakfast.

QICA is a borough-wide coalition of more than 200 organizations and individuals providing services to senior adults. The forum brings together seniors, service organizations, legislators and policy makers.

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