Sanders Pushing Again For One-time Social Security Boost
11/23/10 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel  Download MP3
(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders says most Social Security recipients need additional financial help from the federal government.
That's why one of his top priorities for next week's lame duck Congressional session is to pass a bill that would send all recipients a one-time emergency check for $250.
VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Sanders says there's a critical need to send these checks out, because for the first time in the history of the Social Security program, there's been no inflation adjustment to benefits for two years in a row.
Back in March, Sanders tried to persuade his Senate colleagues to pass a similar bill but his effort fell 3 votes short.
Sanders says he's renewing this fight because basic expenses for seniors have gone up over the past year.
(Sanders) "I think that every member of the Senate understands that when you go home what you're seeing, what you're hearing from our senior citizens who are saying' excuse me, my cost for prescription drugs have gone up, my costs for health care have gone up. Don't tell me there hasn't been any inflation for me.' And they're right."
(Kinzel) The lame duck session is also expected to consider extending the so called "Bush" income tax cuts. Sanders says sending out emergency Social Security checks should also be part of the agenda.
(Sanders) "I think that at the very least - especially when our Republican friends are talking about $700 billion in tax breaks for the wealthiest two percent - I think as a nation we can afford to provide a $250 emergency check for seniors and disabled veterans. I think that's the right thing to do and it's something that I will certainly be fighting for."
(Kinzel) Sanders also wants to create a new cost of living index that specifically looks at the expenses of elderly people so that this problem doesn't happen again.
(Sanders) "So seniors purchasing habits and patterns are different from the overall population. What I have been fighting for is a separate index for seniors and I think that index would reflect in fact that they need a COLA - that their costs have gone up."
(Kinzel) Sanders says he's convinced that Social Security recipients will immediately spend this money and that this activity will provide enough economic stimulation to pay for the legislation.
For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.