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SOCIAL SECURITY: Begich, Murray Introduce RAISE Act on Senate Floor

Jun 10 2014

Murray: “At a time when Social Security is an increasingly critical source of support for so many, the RAISE Act would make some commonsense updates to ensure our Social Security system is doing everything possible to help seniors and their families.”

(Washington, D.C.) –Today, Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks on the Senate floor introducing the Retirement and Income Security Enhancements (RAISE) Act – a set of commonsense proposals to modernize, enhance, and protect our Social Security system in a fiscally responsible way. Begich and Murray highlighted that the RAISE Act would strengthen benefits for senior widows and widowers, disabled individuals, and young adults who have faced serious hardship in their immediate families, while shoring up the Social Security Trust Fund using an approach that protects middle class families, and asks those who can afford it to pay their fair share.

Read more about the RAISE Act here.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“I know Senator Begich is deeply committed to strengthening and protecting Social Security for current and future seniors. And I’m pleased to join him in introducing the RAISE Act, which would be a critical step forward in this effort.”

“…it’s clear that more than ever, Social Security is a lifeline for millions of seniors. So it is especially important for us to make sure this critical system is meeting the needs of today’s beneficiaries.”

“At a time when Social Security is an increasingly critical source of support for so many, the RAISE Act would make some commonsense updates to ensure our Social Security system is doing everything possible to help seniors and their families. The RAISE Act would establish a new alternative benefit, to make sure widows and widowers from two-earner families don’t receive less in survivor benefits than those from single-earner families. The RAISE Act would enable spouses who were married for less than ten years to receive spousal and survivor benefits. And it would extend benefits for young adults under 23 who are enrolled in school full-time.”

“Crucially, to help make sure Social Security is there for future generations, the RAISE Act would shore up the Social Security Trust Fund, in a fiscally responsible way that protects middle class families.”

“…I believe strengthening and protecting Social Security benefits through the RAISE Act would do an enormous amount to help workers and families stay financially secure. But I also want to note that this is a much broader challenge. There isn’t just one solution. We should absolutely make these critical changes to help ensure our Social Security system is meeting the needs of today’s workers and families.”

"…we should also look at ways to help workers save for retirement, and encourage companies to offer high–quality retirement plans. And that’s not at all. We need to make sure women get equal pay for equal work, so they have the same shot at a secure retirement as their male coworkers. We need to invest in education and training and get college costs down, so our workers are prepared to compete for high-wage, high skill jobs. And we need to continue fighting to strengthen and protect programs like Medicare, which senior women and men rely on. Democrats care deeply about taking these steps—and many others—to make sure workers have the secure, dignified retirement they deserve.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. President.

“Mr. President, I know Senator Begich is deeply committed to strengthening and protecting Social Security for current and future seniors. And I’m pleased to join him in introducing the RAISE Act, which would be a critical step forward in this effort.

“Over the last few decades, middle class families have been increasingly squeezed by rising prices for everything from health care to college tuition.

“Wages have stayed flat—or even declined for some. And fewer companies offer the kinds of generous pension plans that used to help so many workers stay financially secure.

“With all that in mind it’s not surprising, M. President, that as families have struggled to stretch their dollars further and further, in order to get the bills paid and raise their children, it has become harder to find a way to save for retirement.

“A recent study showed that more than a third of today’s workers have been unable to save even a dollar for retirement.

“And even those who do have savings often don’t have very much.

“The same study found that sixty percent of respondents had less than $25,000 in total assets and investments, excluding their home.

“The numbers are even more pronounced when you look at women in the workforce. Because women, on average, earn less than men, accumulate less in savings, and receive smaller pensions, nearly three in ten women over 65 depend only on Social Security for income in their later years. 

“Mr. President, it’s clear that more than ever, Social Security is a lifeline for millions of seniors. So it is especially important for us to make sure this critical system is meeting the needs of today’s beneficiaries.

“For 75 years our Social Security system has offered millions of seniors and their families have a foundation of financial security. But a lot has changed in those 75 years.

“Today, most families have two earners. Because Social Security was designed for single-earner families, surviving spouses in families where both adults worked may receive less in benefits than they deserve.

“Social Security also supports children whose parents retired, became disabled, or passed away—but those benefits end at age 18 or 19.

“That’s right when young adults should be thinking about continuing their education—a necessity in today’s economy.

“At a time when Social Security is an increasingly critical source of support for so many, the RAISE Act would make some commonsense updates to ensure our Social Security system is doing everything possible to help seniors and their families.

“The RAISE Act would establish a new alternative benefit, to make sure widows and widowers from two-earner families don’t receive less in survivor benefits than those from single-earner families.

“The RAISE Act would enable spouses who were married for less than ten years to receive spousal and survivor benefits.

“And it would extend benefits for young adults under 23 who are enrolled in school full-time.

“Crucially, to help make sure Social Security is there for future generations, the RAISE Act would shore up the Social Security Trust Fund, in a fiscally responsible way that protects middle class families.

“Mr. President, I believe strengthening and protecting Social Security benefits through the RAISE Act would do an enormous amount to help workers and families stay financially secure. But I also want to note that this is a much broader challenge.

“There isn’t just one solution. We should absolutely make these critical changes to help ensure our Social Security system is meeting the needs of today’s workers and families.

“But we should also look at ways to help workers save for retirement, and encourage companies to offer high–quality retirement plans. And that’s not at all.

“We need to make sure women get equal pay for equal work, so they have the same shot at a secure retirement as their male coworkers.

“We need to invest in education and training and get college costs down, so our workers are prepared to compete for high-wage, high skill jobs.

“And we need to continue fighting to strengthen and protect programs like Medicare, which senior women and men rely on.

“Democrats care deeply about taking these steps—and many others—to make sure workers have the secure, dignified retirement they deserve.

“Because Mr. President, there is absolutely no reason why, after working hard all her life, a retiree should have to worry about how she and her family will make ends meet.

“I believe we can do better. I know Senator Begich does as well. So I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take a close look at the RAISE Act.

“I hope we can pass it to offer seniors and their families some additional relief…

“And then, I hope we can build on it with other policies to create more opportunity and more financial security for our workers.

“Thank you and I yield the floor.”