Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari says a 2.8 percent increase for recipients may be a step in the right direction but still not enough.
“While this Cost of Living Adjustment is better than past years when there had been no increase, our seniors would be better served by a higher COLA,” said Vicari, who is Chairman of Senior Services in Ocean County. “With one of the highest percentages of seniors in the country, it is my priority to make sure Social Security is maintained and preserved.
“It’s also important our seniors receive an ample benefit from a program most have paid into all of their working days,” he said. “Our seniors rely on Social Security.”
As of December 2017, there were 126,255 seniors aged 65 and older in Ocean County receiving Social Security. There are almost 173,000 seniors living in Ocean County.
Vicari said seniors can get assistance from the Ocean County Office of Senior Services should they need help with meals or other services.
“Ocean County continues to appropriate funds for senior services that help keep our seniors independent,” Vicari said.
For instance, he noted Ocean County’s senior nutrition program provides 1,100 meals a day to seniors including the home delivered meal program.
“The Board of Freeholders made sure there is no waiting list for this very important program,” Vicari said. “It’s imperative that all levels of government assist in providing our aging populations with programs and services that will make their lives better and keep them out of nursing homes and hospitals.”
According to Social Security, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 67 million Americans will increase 2.8 percent in 2019.
The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Social Security plays a key financial role in the lives of our seniors,” Vicari said. “Yet statistics show our seniors are hardly, if at all, getting by on it should it be their main income source.”
According to study findings, the average Social Security benefit provides an elderly person living alone in Ocean County only 54 to 76 percent of the amount needed to cover basic expenses. Moreover, elders in Ocean County living alone on an income equivalent to the federal povertyguideline can cover only 36 to 51 percent of their basic living expenses.
The recent elder economic index shows Social Security is the sole income for approximately 30 percent of New Jersey elders.
For information on Ocean County senior programs and services, contact the Ocean County Office of Senior Services at 732-929-2091.