A joint resolution that would urge the United States Congress to change the way that Social Security payments are formulated to prevent a decrease in benefits was passed unanimously in the California state Senate on Thursday.
Senate Joint Resolution 5, authored by Senator Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita), would specifically ask Congress to amend the Social Security Administration’s index of earnings to combat a decline in wages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that would result in lowered Social Security payments.
Instead of the current aggregate wage system, SJR 5 would urge Congress to either base the national average wage off first quarter earnings for Social Security benefits for those who turn 60 in 2020 or 2021 or use the 2019 national average wage for Social Security benefits for those who turn 60 in 2020 or 2021.
Without a correction soon, 8 million Americans turning 60 during the Pandemic would receive less in Social Security benefits than previously calculated pre-pandemic. According to the Social Security Administration, payments could be lowered by as much as 5.9%, or $119 per month for life.
Senator Wilk wrote SJR 5 as an extra way to alert the U.S. Congress to the impending fixed income shortfall that millions of Americans, including hundreds of thousands of Californians, may face if it is not corrected soon.
“My Senate colleagues recognize the need for protecting Social Security benefits, and I am hopeful that Congress will hear our message loud and clear: that Social Security benefits are worth protecting, and that many people who rely on these benefits need them to stay above poverty levels,” stated Wilk in a press release on Thursday. “Without this fix, people turning 60 during the pandemic would receive far lower benefits than expected. Many of these same people have spent years planning their retirement, and made these plans rightfully expecting a certain level of benefits. This is an obvious fix. Congress can and should do all it can to protect the futures of America’s retirees.”
While many in Washington are aware of the issue, with a current bill in Washington falling largely along the lines of Wilk’s proposal, experts have stated that additional state pressure, especially from bipartisan agreements from solid blue and red states, may help expedite action on the issue.
“Lawmakers in Washington would be hard to ignore the largest state, a blue state, unanimously agreeing on something written by a Republican,” explained Washington-based lobbyist assistant Veronica Ghent to the Globe on Thursday. “If it passes through your assembly, and similar resolutions come in through Texas and New York, with all parties upset, lawmakers here will scramble.
“A lot of them are afraid of future election challenges and none of them want to hurt their chances with the retiree vote. They vote in large numbers, and in some areas, are the bread and butter of their support. Telling some that they may be earning less and that they won’t do anything about it, well, that’s pretty close to political suicide.”
SJR 5 is expected to be heard in the Assembly soon and is expected to easily pass both Assembly committees and the Assembly vote itself.