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Area seniors are pleased that there will be a significant increase in Social Security’s Cost-of-Living Adjustment, but they seem to expect an increase in services to go right along with that hike.

“We’re getting something, anyhow,” said Dan Gagich of Washington. “It’s not going to make much difference because inflation is going to take it all.”

The Social Security Administration announced Wednesday that there would be a 5.9% boost in benefits for 2022, the largest Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) in 39 years. Rising inflation (about 5.4% from 2020) was cited as the reason for the sizable COLA increase. The economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic has triggered higher prices, which will result in bigger checks for retirees.

The boost of 5.9% would be the largest since a 7.4% hike in 1982. Over the last 10 years the COLAs have averaged about 1.65% a year with no increase in 2015 and a scant .03% increase in 2016. The increase for 2021 was just 1.3%.

Gagich, 88, was an iron worker for 42 years. He and his wife, Barbara, were among the group having lunch Thursday at the Washington Area Senior Citizens Center.

“They’re giving us a raise. That’s good,” said George Livingood, of Washington, a retired custodial worker with the Washington School District. “I think it will (help).”

“The way prices are changing, anything will help us,” added Ernie Lyle, who was a driver for the Observer-Reporter for 39 1/2 years. “Anytime there’s money, there has to be a place where it comes from. Where is this money coming from?”

The Social Security Administration said the COLA is expected to amount to $92 a month for the average retired worker. This means the estimated average Social Security payment for a retired worker will be $1,657 a month in 2021.

Nina Gratson, 76, of Connellsville, lamented continually increasing prices of necessities.

“The cost of living (stinks),” said the retired home care worker. “The price of groceries, clothing and medicine all went up. It seems like your checks don’t go far enough to cover all of that, especially for the low-income seniors.”

Gratson did say the COLA increase will be of some help.

“I think it will help to offset some of the prices, but I don’t see any of the prices stopping from going up the way shipping is and trying to get groceries into the stores,” she said.

The COLA affects household budgets for about 1 in 5 Americans, including Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees. That number amounts to about 70 million people in the country.

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