WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) alongside Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in introducing legislation that would expand Social Security benefits by $2,400 a year and fully fund it for the next 75 years past the year 2096 – all without raising taxes by one penny on over 93 percent of American households. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced companion legislation in the House.
These estimates reflect an analysis of the legislation conducted by the Social Security Administration on the request of Sen. Sanders and Rep. DeFazio. The analysis was also released today in a letter from Chief Actuary Stephen Goss.
This follows the recent release of an annual report by the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds that showed Social Security currently has a $2.85 trillion surplus and can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible recipient until the year 2034.
“For decades, Americans have depended on the Social Security benefits they’ve earned,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “Yet this vital program has been under attack, threatening working families’ financial security. We’ve got to fight to protect it and to ensure Americans can rely on it for years to come. That’s why I’m joining Senator Sanders to introduce this legislation to shore up Social Security and provide the certainty folks deserve.”
“At a time when half of older Americans have no retirement savings and millions of senior citizens are living in poverty, our job is not to cut Social Security,” said Sen. Sanders. “Our job must be to expand Social Security so that every senior citizen in America can retire with the dignity they deserve and every person with a disability can live with the security they need. And we will do that by demanding that the wealthiest people in America finally pay their fair share of taxes. It is absurd that a billionaire in America today pays the same amount of Social Security taxes as someone making $147,000 a year. It is time to scrap the cap, expand benefits, and fully fund Social Security. I am very proud that the Social Security Administration has estimated that our legislation to expand Social Security benefits by $2,400 a year will fully fund Social Security for the next 75 years by applying the payroll tax on all income – including capital gains – above $250,000 a year.”
“Social Security is an economic lifeline for millions of Americans, but many seniors are struggling with rising costs,” said Sen. Warren. “As Republicans try to phase out Social Security and raise taxes on more than 70 million hardworking Americans, I’m working with Senator Sanders to expand Social Security and extend its solvency by making the wealthy pay their fair share, so everyone can retire with dignity.”
“As a trained gerontologist, I have devoted my career to protecting and expanding programs that are vital to seniors,” said Rep. DeFazio. “One of my highest priorities is protecting Social Security, which millions of Americans rely on, including hundreds of thousands of Oregonians. With the cost of living at an all-time high, Social Security has never been more important, yet Congressional Republicans continue to play games with its funding. This legislation would ensure that the Social Security Trust Fund remains solvent for another 75 years, increase monthly benefits for most recipients by $200, and alter the cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) formula to meet the everyday needs of our nation’s seniors.”
Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Social Security today remains one of the most popular and successful government programs in the history of the United States. Before it was enacted in 1935, more than half of the nation’s seniors lived in poverty, as well as countless Americans living with disabilities and surviving dependents of deceased workers.
More than 80 years later, the nation’s senior poverty rate is just 8.9 percent with Social Security providing an essential lifeline to the one in seven seniors who rely on the program for more than 90 percent of their income – as well as the estimated 50 percent of Americans, 55-years-old and older, living without retirement savings. In 2020 alone, during the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, Social Security lifted 22 million Americans out of poverty, including more than 16 million seniors.
By requiring millionaires and billionaires to finally pay their fair share into the program, the Social Security Expansion Act would build upon and strengthen that legacy. In addition to ensuring solvency to the end of the century, this legislation would help low-income workers stay out of poverty by improving the Special Minimum Benefit, restore student benefits up to age 22 for children of disabled or deceased workers, strengthen benefits for senior citizens and people with disabilities, increase Cost-Of-Living-Adjustments (COLAs), and expand program benefits across-the-board.
“Social Security is an enduring feature of American life – throughout its over 80 year history, the program has provided millions of American seniors and people with disabilities with financial security,” said Sen. Booker. “To continue the success of Social Security, our nation must expand the program and extend its solvency to ensure workers can rely on these benefits for generations to come. This bill would make critical reforms to the program, increasing benefits paid out each month and more accurately measuring cost of living adjustments over time. In addition to these reforms, the legislation would also extend the solvency of Social Security for 75 years by closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans.”
“Social Security touches the lives of every American, directly or indirectly. It impacts the lives of older Americans, people with disabilities, and wounded warriors. We must not only protect our Social Security system, we must strengthen and expand it,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “In 2020, Social Security lifted 22 million Americans out of poverty, including more than 16 million older adults. We have to make sure that it’s giving retirees and their families the support they need – and the support they spent their entire lives earning. For so many retirees and their families all over the state of New York, and all over the country, Social Security is truly a matter of survival. Social Security is essential, and it’s something that I will do everything in my power to protect and strengthen.”
“Social Security has provided financial security for older Americans and disabled workers for nearly 90 years, and these days we’re seeing just how crucial it is,” said Sen. Merkley. “As costs of living continue to rise, more and more seniors who rely on Social Security find themselves struggling to afford their basic living expenses, including housing, prescription drugs, food and transportation. We need to increase benefits and strengthen the trust fund, and this bill does both. I look forward to working with my colleagues to expand these important benefits that older Americans have earned through their lifetimes of hard work.”
“American workers pay into Social Security on the sacred promise of protection if disability strikes and a dignified retirement in their golden years. We need to make good on that promise,” said Sen. Whitehouse. “This bill delivers for seniors by expanding benefits to cover rising costs and ensuring the long-term solvency of the program.”
More than 15 members cosponsored Rep. DeFazio’s companion legislation in the House, including Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-N.J.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Chuy García (D-Ill.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)
The Social Security Expansion Act has also garnered the support of more than 50 major organizations, including the AFL-CIO; American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); Social Security Works; Alliance for Retired Americans; American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE); National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM); American Federation of Teachers (AFT); National Education Association; United Electrical, Radio, & Machine Workers of America (UE); and the Economic Policy Institute.
A copy of the bill text is here.
A copy of the fact sheet and full list of supporting organizations is here.