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Begich Highlights Value of Social Security to Alaskans

New report shows 1 in 10 Alaskans receive benefits

With more than 71,000 Alaskans receiving benefits from Social Security, it's never been more important to take actions to protect and preserve the program for current and future generations. That was the message from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich who today released a new report about the value of the program for Alaska.

Social Security Works for ALASKA is a report produced by Social Security Works, a coalition of more than 60 organizations. The report outlines the many positive impacts of the program on Alaska's economy, providing nearly $1 billion each year to retired workers, women, children, the disabled and workers in transition.

"Some have proposed turning Social Security over to Wall Street. Or cutting it to somehow reduce the federal deficit," Begich said. "I couldn't disagree more strongly with either of these misguided ideas."

Begich talked about the report at a news conference at the Anchorage Senior Center where he was joined by Pat Luby, Advocacy Director for AARP; Nikole Nelson, Executive Director of Alaska Legal Services; and some Alaskans who receive Social Security benefits.

"The best thing about Social Security is that you cannot outlive your benefit," said Pat Luby, AARP Advocacy Director. "Social Security is a guaranteed source of income, unlike the stock market."

Begich pointed out Social Security has not caused the federal deficit, and is paid for through dedicated taxes contributed by workers and their employers. In fact, the program has a $2.5 trillion surplus today, which is expected to grow to $4.2 trillion by 2025.

"For our state, Social Security makes a significant difference in the lives of working families, seniors, children, surviving spouses and the disabled," Begich added.

According to the new report, Social Security:

·         Lifts 22,000 Alaskan out of poverty, including 11,000 elderly Alaskans;
·         Provides benefits to 1 in 10 women; keeping 7,000 Alaska women aged 65 and older out of poverty;
·         Provides benefits to nearly 1 out of 4 (21.9 percent) Alaska Native households;
·         Provides disability benefits to 11,000 workers; nearly 1 out of 6 of all beneficiaries;

The report states the average benefit in Alaska is less than $13,000 a year - $14,000 for retirees - but the program is very important to those who receive it. It is essentially family insurance protection against lost wages due to old age, disability, or death.

Begich said well into the future, around the year 2037, Social Security is projected to encounter a funding shortfall which is why we need to start the discussion now of how to make the program stronger. We also need to make sure any proposed "fixes" don't end up breaking the system, he added.

"As I travel across Alaska, I hear from Alaskans of all ages who are worried about retirement and see Social Security as a basic part of retirement security," Begich said.

For a copy of the report, go to:

http://socialsecurity-works.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Social-Security-Works-for-Alaska_August-24_Definitive_Final.pdf



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