Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits | TheHill

Submitted by mmarquez on Sun, 08/16/2020 - 20:58
Body (08.07.2020) While social security benefits are secure, the unprecedented conditions of the COVID-19 economic crisis have unearthed a technical glitch. If left uncorrected, a COVID-19 notch will result: Those turning 60 this year – more than 4 million workers – and their families will receive substantially lower Social Security benefits than workers (and their families) with identical earnings who turned 60 last year. Fortunately, the solution is easy and straightforward. But Congress must act. Social Security’s earned benefits are based on each worker’s individual earnings history appropriately adjusted to reflect the growth in aggregate economy-wide wages. This structure is ingenious and fair, has numerous advantages, and works extremely well in almost all economic times. But these are not normal times. Thanks to the pandemic and the economic collapse, aggregate wage levels are highly likely to decline substantially this year. Because this drastic decline in aggregate wage levels is so unusual, our Social Security system does not take that possibility into account. Congress must fix that understandable oversight to avoid the COVID-19 notch. Fortunately, the fix is easy. Congress should enact a simple correction that mirrors other parts of our Social Security system. Social Security’s automatic annual cost of living adjustment, for example, can never result in a decrease in benefits, notwithstanding what is happening with inflation. Similarly, Congress should amend Social Security’s indexing of earnings so that it does not result in lower benefits no matter what is happening with aggregate wages nationwide. That simple fix – ensuring that the decline in overall wages doesn’t produce lower benefits – solves the problem. Those turning 60 this year will not get less than those who turned 60 last year.

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