Social Security Keeps More Than 800,000 Elderly New Yorkers Out of Poverty

April 8, 1999. Over 500,000 are women. Press release:

A new analysis by the Washington-D.C. based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities confirms that Social Security is our nation’s most important safety net program. In New York State, for example, over one million elderly would be living in poverty if it were not for Social Security. This essential social insurance program lifts a over 800,000 elderly New Yorkers out of poverty. Social Security is particularly important to the economic well-being of elderly women, who represent over 500,000 of the elderly New Yorkers who do not live in poverty because of Social Security.

“As the nation debates the future of Social Security, the phenomenal impact of Social Security on the economic well-being of the elderly must be at the forefront of all discussions,” said Frank Mauro, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI), a state-level think tank that works closely with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and which released the new analysis today at an Albany press conference. FPI’s members consist of labor, religious, human service advocacy, community organizations. It was established in 1991 to increase public and governmental understanding of issues related to the impact of governmental policies on the economic prospects of low and middle income New Yorkers.

Leaders of FPI member organizations, from a wide range of perspectives, join together in emphasizing the importance of Social Security and calling on policymakers to avoid trendy ideas that could add great risk to the economic security of future generations while contributing little or nothing to ensuring the system’s long term viability. FPI board members David Jones of the Community Service Society and Gerald McEntee of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and FPI policy board members Michael Burgess of New York StateWide Senior Action and Ed Bloch of The Interfaith Alliance of New York State, are representative of the broad support that exists for protecting Social Security as our nation’s most effective and universal social insurance program.

“The elderly are often the glue which holds poor families and neighborhoods together,” says David R. Jones, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Community Services Society of New York, an anti-poverty group. “As other aspects of the social safety net are being shred, Social Security plays an increasingly vital role in providing financial and social stability to New York City’s African American and Latino communities.”

Gerald McEntee, the President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said that “The findings of this report show the dramatic impact Social Security has in lifting the elderly out of poverty. This is true not just in New York, but throughout America. Over half of all older Americans and two-thirds of elderly women rely on Social Security for half or more of their income. One-quarter of all elderly and one-third of elderly women rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. Without Social Security, half of Americans 65 or older would live in poverty, compared to the actual poverty rate of less than 11%.”

Michael Burgess, the Executive Director of New York StateWide Action, warned that “Those who want to privatize Social Security have failed to address the fact that Social Security is an anti-poverty safety net program not a supplemental investment plan.”

Ed Bloch, Director of The Interfaith Alliance of New York State, sounded an ecumenical faith perspective on the current debate: “To talk about the individualism that ‘privatization’ represents is the anathema of community without even going into the Wall Street shenanigans that ‘privatization” could become.’

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