Sen. Schatz introduces bill to increase Social Security benefits

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Some big changes could be on the way for Hawaii seniors who rely on Social Security.

Sen. Brian Schatz has introduced a bill to strengthen benefits.

Seniors who would benefit most by reforming the Social Security program gathered around Sen. Schatz during a noon press conference on Thursday.

“There are 240,000 residents — one in six of all people in the state of Hawaii — who receive Social Security benefits and the average benefit is $14,000 per year,” Sen. Schatz said.

Sen. Schatz is joining with Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin in sponsoring the bill. According to Schatz, Social Security benefits are the sole source of income for one in four Hawaii residents over the age of 65.

“This bill will change the benefit formula to increase benefits by about $65 per month. The bill will change the way the annual cost of living is adjusted so that it better reflects the real costs that seniors face,” Sen. Schatz said.

KHON2 talked with one senior. Ruth Miller, 94, said the increase would be a boon.

KHON2 asked if it would make a difference.

“Oh, yes it will. It certainly will. It will help pay off some of my medical expenses,” Miller said.

Sen. Schatz admitted there will likely be GOP opposition to the bill.

“Employers are over-taxed and that’s where the money’s going to come from in terms of matching dollars,” Sen. Sam Slom said.

Even Sen. Slom said the social security program is a sensitive area on both sides of the aisle.

“I’ve always been a firm believer, while I’m critical of government, a firm believer that government has got to keep its promises,” Sen. Slom said. “Social Security is a promise that’s made to people. It is most important to a great number of people, so let’s do that first, not worry about cutting it back.”

Still, Sen. Slom insisted someone has to pay for the reformation — likely small businesses — and that could be devastating.

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