PROVIDENCE, RI – The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused many Americans to scale down anniversary and birthday celebrations.  But that didn’t stop U.S. Senator Jack Reed from commemorating the 85th anniversary of the Social Security program and recognizing the achievements of the man and woman most responsible for its passage: President Franklin Roosevelt and Secretary of Labor Francis Perkins, the first woman in U.S. history to hold a cabinet position.

On August 14, 1935, with the nation grappling with an unemployment crisis and economic challenges, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, telling Americans the system would save them from “a poverty-ridden old age.”  Eighty-five years later, the successful program has helped generations of Americans achieve a dignified retirement.

Today, over 228,000 Rhode Islanders of all ages receive some type of earned Social Security benefits, including retirement, disability, and survivor benefits. 

“Eighty-five years after FDR, Frances Perkins, and others led efforts to create Social Security, it continues to provide for the economic safety of millions of working Americans and their families.  For generations, Social Security has provided a dependable and predictable stream of income to retired or disabled workers, their dependents and their families.  Today, sixty-four million men, women, and children – including 228,000 Rhode Islanders -- rely on Social Security benefits each month as a financial foundation that helps them live with dignity.  We must strengthen and protect Social Security to ensure it is there for future generation,” said Reed.

According to the Social Security Administration, 228,257 Rhode Islanders of all ages receive earned Social Security benefits, including retirement, disability and survivor benefits.  The average Social Security retirement benefit in 2020 is about $1,514 a month, or about $18,170 a year. And for disabled workers or aged widows, the average benefit is slightly less.

Senator Reed noted that Social Security has come under increasing attack by the Trump Administration lately.  President Trump said he would “terminate” the mechanism that funds Social Security and signed a unilateral, payroll-tax executive order that would hurt Social Security and be disastrous for seniors while still doing nothing to benefit the 30 million-plus Americans who’ve lost their jobs during his presidency. 

“President Trump’s fiscal sneak attacks on Social Security are irresponsible and out of touch.  The President’s executive orders would starve Social Security of the funds it needs and do little to help the millions of out of work Americans who have been hurt most by the Trump Administration’s policies.  In an era of strong partisan differences, Social Security has broad popular support from the vast majority of Americans.  As people see the details of what President Trump is proposing and what it would do to their retirement security, it is no wonder that the President’s staff is furiously back pedaling and trying to walk his remarks back.  The President himself should declare he misspoke, reverse course, and pledge he won’t actually follow through on his threat to fundamentally defund and dismantle Social Security,” concluded Reed.