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Biden, Congress must maintain mission of Social Security, USPS


(Feb. 15, 2021) — Beginning in 1935, seniors were able to depend on a check from the Social Security Administration, arriving once a month and delivered by a unionized letter carrier. The two truisms became woven into the fabric of the American promise: work hard, pay your fair share, and you could depend on the federal government to live up to maintain a social safety net while ensuring the mail came on time.

Social Security has lifted more Americans above the poverty line than any other program in American history, and the U.S. Postal Service is consistently recognized as the most popular agency in the federal government. Protecting and securing both were key promises of the Biden-Harris campaign; following through on those promises will be among the most significant challenges of his presidency.

The economic recession that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic has cost millions their jobs reduced payments into the Social Security program — specifically, the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance trust fund — by billions of dollars over the last year alone. President Biden has proposed several solutions to address future solvency issues, including applying Social Security payroll taxes to those making $400,000 and up, which would be a step in the right direction. Scrapping the cap entirely could, and would, strengthen the program’s finances while making it more equitable, and should be strongly considered, as well.

But in the meantime, immediate action is needed to make sure the social safety net holds fast as we work our way out of this pandemic.

Social Security benefits are calculated based on a person’s lifetime earnings, and people who turn 60 this year and saw their wages cut in in 2020 could see their benefits permanently reduced by up to $2,000 per year. HR 7499, the Social Security COVID Correction and Equity Act, would keep people who retire this year from being unduly penalized. It would also immediately increase benefits across the board, increase the special minimum benefit for lower income beneficiaries, and reduce taxation on benefits for lower and middle-income beneficiaries. Each of these measures, supported by Reps. Suzan DelBene, Pramila Jayapal, Derek Kilmer, Rick Larsen and Adam Smith, would help our public policies from making a bad situation worse amidst the ongoing public health and economic crisis.

Unfortunately, some crises are manmade, and the Post Office is teetering at the edge of a fiscal cliff of Congress’s making.

In 2006, Congress passed a law which required USPS to prefund its retiree health benefits program for 50 years into the future, to the tune of $72 billion. This mandate now threatens the survival of USPS at a critical time for those who depend on it. Online shopping spiked last year when Americans were told to stay home, and folks were suddenly going on the internet to order medicines, PPE, and other essential items. But President Trump’s postmaster general worked overtime to sabotage the efficient delivery of the mail, eliminating employee overtime just as ballots were beginnings to hit mailboxes and generally trying to undermine the hardworking men and women sorting, processing, and delivering the mail.

Congress must act to set the USPS back on sound financial footing and support President Biden’s efforts to replace Trump’s handpicked postmaster general as soon as possible.

The Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans, the only statewide organization representing both public and private retired union members and their community allies, is meeting with every member of our congressional delegation this month. We will be championing timely action on both of these critical issues, specifically the Social Security COVID Correction and Equity Act and the USPS Fairness Act, which will have an immediate and long-lasting impact on improving the lives of retirees in the Northwest.

Through rain and snow and heat and Zoom, we will be advocating for seniors in the other Washington, and we welcome our working sisters, brothers and siblings to join us.

Jackie Boschok is the President of the Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans. Learn more about WSARA here.

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