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Boro reps criticize Social Security plan

A group of Democratic elected officials and a City Council candidate have demanded that the Social Security Administration scrap its plan to cut off cost-of-living allowances for two years despite rising costs.

“To say that the costs for seniors will not go up for two years is to pretend that the laws of economic gravity don’t apply to older people,” said U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills).

Weiner; Democratic District Leader Frank Gulluscio, a candidate for City Council; state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach); and state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach) called on Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue to reassess the proposed freeze on cost of living payments.

They also told Astrue that seniors should get a regional cost adjustment since the cost of living varies throughout the nation.

“For many seniors, Social Security is a lifeline,” said Gulluscio, who is running on the Democratic line against Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Rockaway Beach). “Even in this recession, the cost of living is on the rise. In New York City, the cost of everything, from medication to milk, has risen. Our seniors need a regional cost-of-living adjustment. It is not a luxury but a necessity. Seniors should not have to choose between eating and paying their rent.”

Both the administration of President Barak Obama and the Congressional Budget Office have forecast that Social Security beneficiaries will not get any cost-of- living adjustments in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 because of the economic recession. The net result of no cost of living raise means millions of Social Security recipients will see their monthly benefits remain flat.

The Democratic group said that regardless of the recession, city seniors have been hit with growing costs.

Seniors signing leases in rent-stabilized apartments got hit with a 6 percent increase. Food prices in the New York area have gone up by 1.4 percent in the last year, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Premiums for the Medicare prescription drug plans will go up 7 percent from an average monthly premium of $28 in 2009 to $30 in 2010.

The cost to ride a bus or subway has risen by 10 percent for seniors.

“As a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Aging, I believe it is important to raise awareness of this critical issue because the planned freeze on Social Security payments would put an undue burden on our seniors, particularly in the weak economy,” said Addabbo.

Pheffer said “protecting our seniors is vital. Seniors are paying increased co-pays for doctor visits and medicine, increased rent, taxes, food and transportation.”

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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