Social Security COLA Is Announced: 1.3%

Increase is slightly lower than last year's, averaging $20 a month
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 13, 2020 2:49 PM CDT
Social Security Checks Are Going Up 1.3%
Social Security checks are ready to be mailed in 2005 in Philadelphia.   (AP Photo/Bradley C. Bower, File)

Social Security recipients will get a modest 1.3% cost-of-living increase in 2021, but that might be small comfort in the face of worries about the coronavirus and its consequences for older people. The average increase for retired workers will be $20 a month, according to estimates released Tuesday by the Social Security Administration. Last year's increase was 1.6%, the AP reports. The COLA affects the personal finances of about 1 in 5 Americans, including Social Security recipients, disabled veterans, and federal retirees, some 70 million people in all. The economic fallout from the virus has reduced tax collections for Social Security and Medicare, likely worsening their long-term financial condition. But there's been no real discussion of either program in the presidential campaign by President Trump or Democrat Joe Biden.

"It's very difficult to talk about anything policy-wise," said Mary Johnson, an analyst with the nonpartisan Senior Citizens League. "We are looking at a period where there are growing inadequacies in Social Security benefits, particularly for people with lower-to-middle benefits." The increase will make the estimated average Social Security payment $1,543 a month next year. Typical benefits for a couple would increase $33 to $2,596 per month. Medicare’s "Part B" premium for outpatient care usually is announced in the fall as well. That amount generally increases, so at least some of any additional Social Security raise goes to health care premiums. "There’s a lot of uncertainty with regard to the effect of the coronavirus on the cost of the premium for next year," said a policy expert with the Medicare Rights Center advocacy group. The Medicare monthly premium is now $144.60.

(More Social Security stories.)

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