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Safety Net for 328,000 Massachusetts Seniors: Social Security

GRAPHIC: Without their Social Security benefits, the number of Massachusetts seniors living in poverty would jump by 34 percentage points, according to a new report. Courtesy CBPP
GRAPHIC: Without their Social Security benefits, the number of Massachusetts seniors living in poverty would jump by 34 percentage points, according to a new report. Courtesy CBPP
November 11, 2013

BOSTON - Without their Social Security benefits, the number of Commonwealth seniors living in poverty would jump by 34 percentage points, according to a new report. In these difficult economic times, according to the report's author, Paul Van de Water, who is with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Social Security prevents 15 million seniors nationwide from falling into poverty.

He said eliminating those benefits would produce a major jump in senior poverty.

"In Massachusetts, the poverty rate among seniors, taking account of Social Security, is about 8 percent, which is below the national average," he pointed out. "But without Social Security, fully 42 percent of Massachusetts' seniors would be living in poverty."

He said that, all told, Social Security is preventing 328,000 Massachusetts 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 are now the primary social safety net for older folks.

Van de Water said 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.

"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 is called "Social Security Keeps 22 Million Americans Out Of Poverty: A State-By-State Analysis." It is available at CBPP.org.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA