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CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS CHECKS

Could the $1,400 stimulus check petition be passed in 2022?

A petition calling on Congress to pass a $1,400 stimulus check for seniors hopes to build momentum into next year to make it a reality in 2022.

Update:
A petition calling on Congress to pass a $1,400 stimulus check for seniors hopes to build momentum into next year to make it a reality in 2022.
Kevin DietschAFP

Senior citizens have been hit hard by inflation, which is at its highest in 30 years, eating into fixed incomes and creating hardship for many. The situation has prompted calls from the Senior Citizens League for a remedy in the form of a one-time $1,400 stimulus check for those receiving Social Security benefits.

On an annual basis the Social Security Administration increases monthly payments to account for any rise in the cost of living. Although this year’s cost-of-living adjustment was the highest in 40 years, higher Medicare premiums will offset much of those gains. Additionally, the record increase could also put some beneficiaries into a higher tax bracket further eroding the annual boost to entitlements.

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Inflation taking a toll on Social Security recipients

Although benefits are indexed so that beneficiaries don’t lose purchasing power as inflation pushes up the cost of everyday items, the increase for 2021 was just 1.3 percent, or an extra $20 per month on average. However, as the US climbs out of the economic crisis induced by the pandemic, which also disrupted supply chains worldwide, there has been unprecedented inflation in 2021. Around 86 percent of Social Security recipients surveyed told the the Senior Citizens League (TSCL) that their expenses increased by much more than that amount.

This has forced some to take drastic steps after having exhausted their retirement savings. Thousands have written to TSCL telling of the hardships they are experiencing such as “eating just one meal a day," or "cutting their pills in half because they can’t afford their prescription drugs.” Many have expressed a sense of abandonment by the federal government.

Hopes for a $1,400 stimulus check in 2022

TSCL began a petition earlier this year to bring a collective voice to members of Congress. The goal is to build enough support from seniors and the public to urge Congress to issue a $1,400.00 stimulus check to help Social Security recipients. This would be a form of non-taxable income so seniors wouldn’t need to worry about their tax burden increasing by being knocked into a higher tax bracket. Besides higher taxes the increase could also bring with it a rise in surcharges to their Medicare Part B premiums, both of which would completely offset any gains.

TSCL recognizes that such a proposal is unlikely to get through Congress before the end of the year. However, through the petition TSCL hopes that it will become a major issue in 2022 applying pressure on lawmakers and gaining Congressional support.

Likelihood of a $1,400 stimulus check in 2022

There had been calls for recurring stimulus checks in the spring but those have all but disappeared. Currently the idea of sending a stimulus check specifically to Social Security recipients hasn’t been mooted by any lawmakers. A one-time check for the more than 64 million Social Security beneficiaries would come with a hefty price tag of nearly $90 billion. Albeit that would be much lower than sending out checks to every American, which looks less likely everyday as the economy improves.

However, other measures that could help seniors citizens are afoot. Democratic Representative John Larson, Chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security, has reintroduced a bill called the Social Security 2100 Act: A Sacred Trust. If this were to pass Social Security benefits would get a boost and implement a new indexing system to more accurately account for inflation. The proposal would also raise thresholds above which recipients’ income including Social Security is taxed.

Why there won’t be a $1,400 stimulus check this year

TSCL recognizes there won’t be a $1,400 stimulus check for Social Security recipients in 2021 because Democratic lawmakers have been consumed with getting President Biden’s agenda through Congress. One portion which had been held up in the House for the past three months, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, finally passed.

Now they will direct their attention to the Build Back Better bill which had been slated to get through Congress in tandem with the other, but moderate Democrats wouldn’t vote for it without a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score. Lawmakers are on a week-long recess, if the CBO score is ready upon their return it could clear the lower chamber next week. However, it would then go to the Senate where Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will likely attempt to whittle the bill down further.

It is currently around half the original $3.5 trillion agreed to when Democrats began the reconciliation process, by which they can pass the bill with a simple majority. Lawmakers in the House had to settle with reducing or cutting programs altogether. But that has led to the idea of passing another Democrat-only reconciliation bill next year to recoup proposal that were ejected or even implement new policies.

Representative John Yarmuth, Chair of the House Budget Committee, told Insider "I have broached the subject with a number of people in leadership positions in the caucus, and there is certainly a willingness to pursue that idea if it makes sense at the time."

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