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Keeping the Wolf from the Door of 76K Maine Seniors: Social Security

GRAPHIC: Without their Social Security benefits, the number of Maine seniors living in poverty would jump by 36 percentage points, according to a new report. Courtesy CBPP
GRAPHIC: Without their Social Security benefits, the number of Maine seniors living in poverty would jump by 36 percentage points, according to a new report. Courtesy CBPP
November 11, 2013

PORTLAND, Maine - Without their Social Security benefits, the number of Maine seniors living in poverty would jump by 36 percentage points, according to a new report.

In these difficult economic times, said report author Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Social Security prevents 15 million seniors nationwide from falling into poverty. Eliminating those benefits, he said, would produce a major jump in senior poverty.

"In Maine, the poverty rate among the elderly is only 8 percent, taking account of Social Security," he said. "But if there were no Social Security, the poverty rate would be 44 percent - fully 36 percentage points higher."

All told, he said, Social Security is preventing 76,000 Maine seniors from falling into poverty. In addition to being a reliable source of retirement money for people at all income levels, he said, those benefits now are the primary social safety net for older folks.

One of the most talked-about proposals for trimming Social Security - the so-called "chained CPI" - could be especially hard on older people already living near the poverty line unless provisions are made to protect them, Van de Water said.

"If that were done, we think it would be particularly important to make sure that there was some protection provided for the lowest-income Americans, and for people who have been on the benefit rolls a long time and therefore would be the most likely to be affected by that proposal," he said.

The report, "Social Security Keeps 22 Million Americans Out of Poverty: A State-By-State Analysis," is online at cbpp.org.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME