Benefit Bulletin: October/November 2021

Should Congress Consider A Special Stimulus Check For Seniors?

By Rick Delaney, TSCL Chairman

Meeting even routine household expenses has been a big challenge for older households, even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  But in 2021, many of you report that you are operating on such tight budgets that you are all out of options to pay bills, even for essentials.

B.C. of North Carolina told us:

I've not been able to actually purchase groceries for my home for about 5 years due to the LOW COLA increases that I have been receiving.  My landlord keeps increasing the price on my rent every year. [By the] Time I pay rent, car payment, and electric bill, and then purchase my medicines that I take every day, I barely have $10 left in my account.  I'm a widow going on 17 years next month, and I do receive my late husband's retirement money, however, by the time I pay another bill with that money, I'm still in the same position.

Soaring inflation in 2021 has put pressure on older household budgets, leaving everyone less prepared for even small expenditure surprises.  According to TSCL’s Senior Survey early in the year, 44% of older consumers are reporting that food has been the fastest growing category of their household budgets — increasing even faster that housing and medical costs.  The same survey also found that nearly one-out-of-five survey respondents, 19 percent, say they have visited a food pantry or applied for food stamps (SNAP) since the beginning of this year.  But a COLA as high as 5.9% could mean benefit trims for some people whose income could make them ineligible in 2022 for the same level of SNAP benefits they receive today.

L.V. of Florida explains this better than I do:

What good will the increase in Social Security do when they will take it back from us with other cuts???  If we get a COLA increase when enrolled in a Medicare Savings Program, the portion of Medicare that we pay goes up and we LOSE our help with prescriptions.  Add to that the cuts to our food stamps and there are times our INCREASE actually costs us money.  

TSCL thinks something needs to be done and is calling on Congress to help America’s seniors and disabled with a special $1,400 stimulus payment for Social Security recipients.  The previous three stimulus payments in 2020 and 2021 were not considered income by SNAP or low-income health programs.  In addition, because the payments are refundable advanced tax credits, they are not included as taxable income, and won’t subject Social Security benefits to taxation.

For this reason, stimulus payments would be important to offset benefit trims for SNAP, higher costs for Medicare and prescription drugs, and higher taxes.

A recent TSCL poll found that 79% said they spent the most recent $1,400 stimulus check on daily essentials, housing, groceries or medical bills.  That’s excellent!  That means every penny of those dollars were returned to the U.S. economy, providing jobs, and thereby providing new payroll tax revenues to strengthen Social Security and Medicare.

TSCL is working with Members of Congress to get legislation for the $1,400 stimulus checks passed.  A big thank you to all of you who sent in examples of how rising inflation has forced you to skimp or go without.  To stay up to date on this effort, check our Weekly Updates in your email or visit TSCL online at