Ocean County Press Release

OCEAN COUNTY Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari said he is "furious" that seniors suffering through the continued economic crisis ignited by COVID-19 will receive only a 1.3 percent increase in their 2021 Social Security benefits.

"It is outrageous and inconceivable that in this economic emergency our seniors are receiving such a paltry increase," Vicari said. "It is totally unacceptable and an insult to every senior citizen who relies on Social Security."

Ocean County is home to more than 173,000 senior citizens, many of whom depend entirely on their monthly Social Security checks.

"A senior citizen living alone receives only about a $1,400 monthly benefit," Vicari said.

A widow or widower living by themselves would see their check increase very slightly from 1,434 to $1,453.

Vicari said the modest increase does not come close to matching rising costs.

"In the past few months alone we have seen Jersey Central Power & Light raise their rates by almost $10 a month. That was followed by toll increases on the Garden State Parkway and a 10-cent per gallon hike in the gas tax. How much more will our seniors be forced to endure?"

Besides these rising costs, the pandemic has led to higher food costs.

"Both food and essential household goods like paper towels have increased by more than 1.3 percent in the past year," he said. "In no way does this cost-of-living increase take into account the continued impact of COVID-19.

Vicari immediately penned letters to Senators Cory Book and Robert Menendez, along with the county's Congressional delegation demanding additional funding for Social Security.

"On behalf of the nearly 200,000 older adults that call Ocean County home, I ask that you do everything in your power to provide additional funding for Social Security. Funding that must be passed along to our most vulnerable senior citizens," Vicari said in the letter.

Vicari said he will also send a letter directly to the White House.

"The cost of living adjustment over the last six years has averaged only about 1.3 percent. In some years, there has been no increase at all," Vicari said. "It is important that our seniors receive an ample benefit from a program most have paid into all of their working days."

Seniors will see the few extra dollars starting with their January 2021 benefit checks.

"Facing continued economic hardships, our seniors are forced to make decisions on whether to pay to keep a roof over their head or purchase life sustaining medications," Vicari said. "No one should have to face making that kind of decision."

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