(WASHINGTON)— Today, the Older Women’s Economic Security Taskforce (OWES) of the National Council of Women’s Organizations and the Center for Community Change released a white paper proposing recommendations to improve Social Security for economically vulnerable Americans. The Social Security system is crucial to the financial stability of tens of millions of Americans, as it provides support for the elderly, the disabled, and the survivors of deceased workers. Yet further advancements can be made to the program to strengthen its protections for women, low-income people, and same-sex couples, since these groups face a greater risk for economic insecurity as they age, according to the white paper released today.
“In the years following an economic recession, it is vital that we address the needs of those who are most financially vulnerable,” said Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Campaign for Community Change. “Despite spending decades in the workforce, women and people of color continue to experience economic insecurity as they age. The Social Security program must be adjusted to serve the specific needs of these groups.”
The white paper outlines the following five major policy changes, each illustrated by an individual’s story of how the proposed change would improve their financial security:
1. Protect workers’ retirement security by creating a caregiver credit in Social Security for the time in which workers must sacrifice earnings due to caregiving obligations.
2. Enable financially vulnerable students, with deceased, disabled, or retired parents, to complete their college education by restoring the “student benefit” and extending their benefits through age 24.
3. Adjust Social Security benefits to properly reflect the actual living expenses for seniors by increasing benefits across the board and applying a price index that determines their annual cost of living.
4. Ensure that low-wage workers will not remain in poverty during their retirement years by offering a minimum Social Security benefit that is at least 125 percent of the federal poverty line.
5. Allow same-sex couples and domestic partners, regardless of where they live, to receive the same Social Security family benefits as married heterosexual couples.
“Social Security is an effective, efficient system that has long been a critical buttress against economic insecurity for millions of American workers and their families,” said Susan Scanlan, Chair of theNational Council of Women’s Organizations. “But there are adjustments that can be made to ensure the Social Security system continues to effectively serve everyone, especially for those who depend on it most.”
“Women tend to have lower wages, interrupted work histories, fewer sources of retirement income, and longer life expectancy, which puts them at a disadvantage under the current system,” Scanlan added. “Social Security benefits must be adjusted to reflect women’s financial realities during their working lives and into their retirement.”
About the Center for Community Change: The Center for Community Change builds the power and capacity of low-income people, especially low-income people of color, to have a significant impact in improving their communities and the policies and institutions that affect their lives. For more information go towww.communitychange.org
About the Older Women’s Economic Security Task Force: In the fall of 1998, theNational Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) formed an Older Women’s Economic Security (OWES) Task Force to address the critical issue of Social Security reform and to help policy makers understand women’s stake in this crucial issue. The Task Force on Older Women’s Economic Security is co-chaired by Heidi Hartmann, President, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization for Women.