Many Americans have trouble covering their costs of living with income solely from Social Security.
Now, a bill has been reintroduced in Congress aimed at reducing the risk that older Americans, women and people of color will live in poverty despite receiving their monthly checks.
The proposal, called the Social Security Enhancement and Protection Act, was put forward by Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., this week.
The measure aims to improve benefits in three ways.
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First, it would update what is called the special minimum benefit — a floor for low earners — to 100% of the current poverty level. This would apply to individuals who have paid into Social Security for at least 30 years and claim benefits when they reach full retirement age (typically 66 or 67, depending on when they were born). Benefits would be adjusted so that workers with at least 10 years of work but fewer than 30 would also be eligible.
In addition, Moore calls for applying childcare credits toward future program eligibility for parents of children under age 6. Those parents would receive a credit for each year a child under that age is in the home, for a maximum of five years. That time would count toward the 30 years required for the special minimum benefit.
The bill also proposes increasing monthly checks for all beneficiaries by 5% once they have been retired for 20 years. That increase would be gradually phased in starting when beneficiaries have reached 16 years of eligibility.
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Student benefits would be expanded for children of deceased and disabled workers so that they would be able to continue to collect money up to age 26 as long as they are students in college or vocational schools. Currently, benefits are only paid for those children up to age 18.
Moore’s plan also calls for changes to help pay for the expanded benefits.
That includes phasing out the Social Security payroll tax cap, which currently only applies to wages up to $142,800.
At the same time, the plan also calls for gradually raising the rate at which both employers and employees pay that tax to 6.5%, from the current rate of 6.2%, over six years.
“My proposal would help us ensure that Social Security does what it was intended to do: protect all older Americans from spending their retirement living in deep poverty,” Moore said in a statement.