Wilk introduces resolution seeking to protect retirement benefits

State Sen. Scott Wilk (pictured) and other local legislators reconvened Monday for a second year of their two-year session in Sacramento. Courtesy of Scott Wilk
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Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, introduced last week a state Senate joint resolution, SJR 5, to urge Congress to amend the Social Security Average Wage Index — a variable in the Social Security Administration’s formula for calculating Social Security benefits — to account for the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A July 2020 article by the Center for American Progress found that the Social Security Administration’s formula for calculating benefits would impact people turning 60 in 2020. 

“The initial retirement benefits that Social Security beneficiaries receive in the first year of retirement are determined by a formula that depends, in part, on the growth of average wages in the economy,” according to the CAP article. “Due to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the key measure of average wages — the average wage index (AWI) — is very likely to decline in 2020.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic will result in “significantly less” initial retirement benefits for those turning 62 in 2022, the center’s article said. 

“Because of this formula, workers turning 60 during the pandemic will be unfairly singled out and punished for the rest of their lives simply because of the year they were born. Many people at this age are near retirement and have already factored in their anticipated Social Security earnings when planning for life after work,” Wilk said in a prepared statement. “Congress must fix this — it’s a no-brainer.” 

Molly Jenkins, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Mike Garcia, said Garcia is monitoring this issue. 

“When this concern was first brought to the congressman’s attention at the start of the pandemic, the congressman and his staff looked into it. After further investigation and conversation with the House Ways and Means Committee, the congressman was pleased to learn that, based on current projections, Americans who turned 60 during 2020 should not be concerned that they will lose their retirement benefits,” Jenkins said in a statement. 

She said Garcia “remains committed to ensuring that seniors receive the benefits and support they are promised and will continue to advocate for such in Congress.” 

Individuals can begin drawing retirement benefits at age 62 and are eligible for their “full” retirement benefits at varying ages, depending on year of birth. The “full” or “normal” retirement age for someone born in 1960 is age 67, according to the Social Security Administration. 

The resolution will need to pass through committees and the floors of both the Senate and Assembly before being chaptered by the California Secretary of State then sent to Congress. 

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