Social Security recipients in Queens, like the rest of the United States, will not see an increase in their monthly payments to compensate for the increased cost of living for the first time in more than 30 years, which is not sitting well with the borough’s elected officials.
Cost-of-living adjustments are tied to the Consumer Price Index, which declined this year because of the economic downturn, but U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) believe that national statistic puts seniors living in higher-priced urban areas like Queens at a disadvantage.
“To say that the cost of living hasn’t increased at all is to misunderstand what’s going on in the world,” Weiner told seniors at the Middle Village Adult Center Monday, noting housing, health care and food had become more expensive for seniors in the city over the past year.
Weiner and Crowley gathered signatures supporting a bill that would change how the Social Security Administration calculates the cost of living nationwide and give New Yorkers an advantage.
The COLA Fairness Act would create a new regional cost-of-living adjustment to allow for differences in prices between Queens and other areas of the country, like rural Montana. If the bill passes, it would provide New York’s senior citizens with an extra 2.1 percent increase in Social Security benefits over five years. It was introduced March 5 and awaits hearings in several different committees within the House of Representatives.
Weiner also noted another proposal being floated: U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is among those pushing a plan to give seniors an extra $250 this year. But some at the meeting Monday said that amount would not cover the increase in Medicare expenses they have incurred.
“These federal dollars will help make sure millions of New York seniors, people with disabilities and veterans can continue to pay bills and put food on the table,” Gillibrand said in a statement.
Under the plan, Queens would receive the second-highest allocation of funds in the state, with $82.3 million going to 329,413 Social Security recipients. The only county receiving more would be Brooklyn, which would get $95 million for 380,066 recipients.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.