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Inflation adding strain to Social Security beneficiaries

An increase in Social Security benefits this year is falling flat as some recipients say the higher cost of every day items is outpacing the extra dollars.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — When the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced late last year to boost retirement benefits by 5.9 percent, Martha Thompson, a Columbia woman, was excited.

After minimal increases, the cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, would become more than Social Security had seen since the 1980s, but when the money came in at the start of the year, her excitement dwindled.

"I think most people like I, we were sort of disappointed," Thompson said.

According to the American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP, the average benefit was about $92 a month, but Thompson said the money, meant to help with inflation, is falling flat as the cost of goods and services rises.

"Lights, water bill, food," she said.

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According to the SSA, benefits are supposed to act as supplemental income and not a persons full earnings.

But, Mary Johnson, a Social Security and Medicare policy analyst with the Senior Citizens League, said many beneficiaries depend primarily on the benefit which could be even lower once expenses like Medicare are removed.

"The lower income Social Security recipients still saw far less in their COLA than $92," Johnson said. "They may have only gotten maybe $25 once everything's taken out."

As inflation continues to rise, it's possible the benefit could see another boost next year, Johnson said.

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Until then, there are agencies to help.

"Contact their area Agency on Aging if they are having trouble affording prescription drugs, if they need help with SNAP applications, if they need some caregiving information for an older relative," Johnson said. "There are a number of agencies locally.”

Thompson said, with family support, she's doing alright, but she's hoping to see inflation cool and the benefit rise.

"It's not that we want a handout," Johnson said, "but I think it would help us in a sense."

To find resources through the S.C. Department on Aging, click here to visit their website.

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