Seniors on Social Security and recipients of Supplemental Security Income will be receiving a 1.7 percent cost of living increase for 2013, said Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) yesterday. SSI recipients will see the additional money beginning Dec. 31, 2012, and Social Security retirees in January 2013. The annual increase will average about $120 per beneficiary.
“Social Security retirement benefits and Supplemental Security Income payments provide an important lifeline to over 3,600 people in the Northern Mariana Islands,” Sablan explained. “And the $25,000,000 that Social Security and SSI pump into our local economy keeps people working and businesses in operation. So this cost of living increase is certainly welcome.”
The Northern Mariana Islands is the only U.S. territory where residents are eligible for Supplemental Security Income. The benefit was negotiated as part of the Commonwealth's Covenant with the United States. A total of 2,586 persons in the CNMI qualified for SSI in 2011, including blind or disabled adults and children, who have limited income and resources, and those 65 and older without disabilities who meet the financial limits.
A total of 1,022 Northern Marianas residents were Social Security recipients in 2011. This number include retirees, who have contributed earnings for 40 quarters, as well as disabled workers, and the widows, parents, spouses, and children of deceased Social Security beneficiaries.
Last year was the first year since 2009 that there had been a cost of living increase for Social Security and SSI. However, in 2009 Congress did provide a special payment of $250 in place of the COLA in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A total of 2,570 Social Security recipients and disabled veterans in the Northern Marianas received the $250, adding $642,420 to the local economy.
Sablan voted for the Recovery Act and also was an original co-sponsor of the Seniors Protection Act in 2010, which would have provided another $250 COLA increase for veterans receiving disability compensation and for Social Security beneficiaries. The bill was voted down by Republicans, however.
The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. More information about the calculation is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/cola. (PR)