Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Monday August 18th, 2014, 10:43am

Report: Social Security Lifts Hundreds Of Thousands Of Illinoisans Out Of Poverty

The "modest benefits" provided under the Social Security program were enough to boost 807,000 Illinoisans out of poverty in 2012, including 585,000 seniors, according to a new report released by Social Security Works and the Alliance for Retired Americans.

At the national level, 22 million people, including one million children, were lifted out of poverty in 2012 thanks to the social insurance program, which celebrated its 79th birthday last Thursday.

Without Social Security, which provides insurance benefits to retirees, children, surviving spouses and the disabled, the poverty rate among Illinois residents 65 and older would jump from 8.3 percent to 43.1 percent, the "Social Security Works for Illinois" report shows.

In Illinois, 67 precent of the state's 2013 Social Security beneficiaries were retirees, followed by disabled workers at 18 percent. Children represented 7 percent of Illinois' Social Security recipients last year.

"You can go right down the line in how (Social Security) impacts all Illinois residents," said Barbara Franklin, president of the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans. "And what really makes you mad is (some lawmakers have) been going after this program ... Hardly a year goes by that you don't hear cries to privatize Social Security."

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL,9), who co-chairs the House Democratic Caucus Seniors Task Force, issued a statement last week marking 79 years since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law on August 14, 1935.

“Today our country is facing a retirement insecurity crisis – the average American retires with virtually no savings,"  the congresswoman said. "This is largely because pensions and retirement savings have been under attack – leaving Americans financially vulnerable when they are able to retire."

"Given this reality we must continue to stand up for seniors," Schakowsky added. "Through the years, Social Security is one of the few resources that seniors can rely to provide a guaranteed, inflation-adjusted earned income after a lifetime of hard work. On this anniversary we should celebrate its success, remain committed to protecting it from any cuts and focus on strengthening it into the future.”

Last year, 13 percent of the nearly 720,800 residents in Schakowsky's 9th congressional district received Social Security benefits, including more than 12,550 disabled workers and about 87,900 retirees. 

At the state level, more than 2.1 million Illinoisans, or 1 out of 6 residents, received $31 billion in collective Social Security benefits last year. Nationwide, $812 billion in Social Security benefits were provided to 58 million Americans in 2013.

The average annual Social Security benefit in the Prairie State was $14,559 last year, compared with $14,006 at the national level. 

"People are not getting fat [Social Security] checks every month," Franklin stressed.

Illinoisans living in rural or non-metropolitan counties depend on Social Security more than metropolitan residents, the report shows.

Nearly 23 percent of rural Illinoisans received Social Security last year, compared with 15.7 percent of those living in metropolitan counties. When asked about the difference, Franklin explained that jobs in rural Illinois are more often than not covered by Social Security, and there tends to be a higher percentage of workers contributing to the program in these parts of the state.

Local economies in rural and non-metropolitan Illinois counties are also bolstered by Social Security more than those in the state's metropolitan communities, according to the report. In 2012, 8.4 percent of the $55.7 billion in total personal income in rural Illinois counties came from Social Security. In the state's metropolitan counties, Social Security represented 4.8 percent of the $534.4 billion in total personal income.

Franklin said Social Security is "one of the most successful insurance programs this country has ever seen," and the system can and should maintain its commitments without slashing benefits.

Looking ahead, the Social Security program "can pay all benefits in full and on time for nearly two decades," according to the report. 

"After that, if Congress were not to act, it could still pay 77 cents on every dollar of earned benefits for the remainder of the next 75 years," the report adds.

Franklin dismissed arguments that Social Security contributes to the federal budget deficit.

"It doesn't add one penny to the budget deficit," she said. "What it adds to is because the government has borrowed from the Social Security Trust Fund, which should have never been allowed to begin with, but they did. They're now beholden to pay that back, and they don't want to have to do this."

Public polling, meanwhile, shows most Americans oppose any cuts to Social Security and are in favor of expanding benefits, Franklin said.

"This is a successful program," she continued. "No one is saying it doesn't need to be tweaked, but we are looking at millionaires and billionaires in this country who are only (required to pay Social Security taxes this year) on the first $117,000 they make, and the rest of their millions and billions is not taxed for Social Security or Medicare."

If Congress were to raise the maximum amount of taxable earnings for Social Security "well above $117,000," Franklin said the system "is going to be a viable fund for as far out as we can see."

Social Security, she added, is "too highly valued by the people in this country, and it will be there [in the future], but the government and Congress need to do their part."

"They have to raise the cap to allow more money to come into the system," Franklin stressed. "That's the secret to this. We have to keep the pressure up on that." 


Login or register to post comments

Recent content