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Local seniors may not see cost-of-living adjustments
Dorothy Arnold, right, and Claudine Jones discuss their difficulties in making ends meet being on a fixed Social Security income Tuesday afternoon at the Gainesville-Hall County Senior Life Center.

The Legacy Link Inc.

What: Area Agency on Aging, serving a 13-county region of Northeast Georgia

Where: 508 Oak St., Gainesville

More info: 800-845-LINK or visit the website


Many local seniors are bracing for yet another Social Security freeze next year.

The government is expected to announce this week that more than 58 million retirees and disabled Americans will not receive yearly cost-of-living adjustments.

This means Hall County recipients will not see a boost in their monthly benefits.

"I think it's awful. I can barely make it now," said Dorothy Arnold, 75. "By the time I pay rent and utilities, medication and co-pays, I don't have anything else."

Arnold said she relies on her Social Security check to help with rising costs, such as medicine and groceries.

"I pay up to $300 a month in medication," she said. "A lot of that comes from Social Security."

Statistics show Social Security is the primary source of income for 64 percent of retirees who got benefits in 2008 and a third relied on it for at least 90 percent of their income. The average Social Security benefit is about $1,072 a month.

For 83-year-old Bernice Austin, her $900 a month check is better than no check, but she wishes the amount was higher.

"If I didn't have children to help, it would be financially devastating to me," she said.

"Good thing I don't have a house payment," Austin added.

Social Security recipients received a one-time bonus payment of $250 in the spring of 2009 as part of the economic recovery package.

U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee has introduced a new bill to provide $250 payments to seniors, if there is no Social Security increase.

Pat Freeman, executive director of The Legacy Link Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for seniors, said there are a few ways to find relief locally.

She said the nonprofit offers objective counselling for insurance purchases to help people find the lowest-cost plan to meet their needs. They can also help locate other benefits a senior might be eligible for, such as food assistance.

An official announcement on Social Security is expected Friday.

The news will mark the second year without an increase to benefits since automatic adjustments for inflation were adopted in 1975.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.