As Congress works to avoid across the board federal spending cuts that are set to take effect March 1, local AARP members want to make sure lawmakers don't cut Social Security benefits. YNN's Kaitlyn Lionti tells us about their concerns and the impact they say proposed cuts would have on seniors and the economy.
CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. -- "I've paid into Social Security since I was 18-years old. I'm 85, now it's going to get cut? I mean, come on," said Leonard Sikora of Williamsville.
Sikora says Social Security is something he and his wife rely on. He's one of several local AARP members concerned about what will happen if Congress decides to cut the program through what's called a Chained Consumer Price Index, or Chained CPI, instead of allowing benefits to go up with inflation.
"Through the Chained CPI, there's an assumption that if you need a service or you need a benefit that there's a cheaper alternative. And when it comes to services that most older adults, most seniors need, there may not be a cheaper alternative for a prescription drug or other types of services that people need. So it would actually reduce their monthly benefit," said Bill Armbruster, associate state director of the AARP.
Armbruster says the Chained CPI would mean more than $7 billion will be taken out of the pockets of New York State seniors over the next 10 years - about $420 million in Erie County alone.
But he says the impact will be felt further.
"It's money that's not going to be spent. It's groceries that won't be bought, medications that won't be bought, churches that won't get donations. This has a huge trickle down effect to the economy," said Armbruster.
The AARP says Social Security benefits keep many older adults out of poverty, but the Chained CPI will hit them the hardest, since they tend to rely on it for most or all of their income.
So they're calling on Congress and the President to prevent harmful changes.
"Social Security is a benefit that seniors have earned, and certainly should not be cut," said Sikora.
Armbruster says the AARP plans to meet with Congressman Brian Higgins and Congressman Chris Collins about this.
We reached out to both, who say they understand the importance of Social Security benefits and the need to protect them.