Lawmakers Feel Pressure to Pass 4th Stimulus Payment—for Seniors Only

Inflation is going to raise Social Security payments next year. Here's why one group says seniors will need even more money.

Senior citizen stares out of window

The three stimulus checks that the federal government has sent out during the pandemic helped families across the country stay afloat and injected billions into the economy when it was sorely needed. Now, one advocacy group is arguing that a fourth payment is necessary—but only for a much smaller group of Americans.

The Senior Citizens League, a nonpartisan organization made up of “active senior citizens concerned about the protection of their Social Security, Medicare, and veteran or military retiree benefits,” says that seniors need an economic impact payment of their own.

Their reasoning? The current relatively high rate of inflation means that the cost of living adjustment to Social Security will likely raise payments by more than six percent next year. COLA is designed to keep the buying power of Social Security recipients steady from year to year—more money is needed to buy the same things when the price of those things goes up—but the higher payments can cause other problems for recipients.

Higher incomes can mean surcharges on their Medicare Part B premiums, for one. The increased payments could also put some seniors into higher tax brackets that would mean they pay more in taxes, negating the benefit of the COLA in whole or part.

It’s these likely difficulties that prompted the Senior Citizens League to announced that it will petition Congress for a new, $1,400 stimulus check just for seniors. It says the money will help seniors afford both the higher prices they’re paying for essentials like food and electricity and the additional funds many will owe to the government thanks to their additional income.

The prospects of such a stimulus passing don’t seem great. The Biden administration has pulled back on some direct help for Americans, including letting pandemic-era interventions like the eviction moratorium and unemployment benefits expire despite the demonstrated good they do for vulnerable people and the little evidence that cutting those benefits boosts employment. And with a $4.5 trillion infrastructure push in progress, the administration seems more likely to focus on that major package than other measures.

On the other hand, senior citizens are one of the most consistent blocs of voters, and the outlay for the more targeted stimulus payment would be much smaller than the wider net the federal government cast before. Stimulus payments are also a popular policy, but that could work against passage. After all, if grandma and grandpa deserve another check, why don’t their kids?