While Senate Democrats negotiate what to include in the party’s sweeping $1.9 trillion budget reconciliation package, the price of almost everything is on the rise – or at least feels like it is.
The legislation seeks to upgrade the nation’s social safety net by extending several coronavirus relief programs and by creating new support systems, such as universal pre-K and health coverage for certain low-income adults. What measures will make it out of the Senate remains to be seen, however.
As lawmakers argue, Americans are struggling with skyrocketing inflation that is pushing up the price of food, gas, cars and other items. Major supply chain disruptions aren’t helping, forcing consumers to pay more for some hard-to-find goods.
But tens of millions of people will see more money in their pockets thanks to increases in benefits and wages that are happening regardless of what Congress ends up doing.
Social Security payments
Social Security recipients will receive an annual cost of living adjustment of 5.9% next year, the largest increase since 1982.
The spike will boost retirees’ monthly payments by $92 to an estimated average of $1,657 for 2022.
It’s the largest adjustment that today’s beneficiaries have seen, said Mary Johnson, Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League.
The roughly 70 million people who get Social Security, including retirees, Americans with disabilities and others, receive a cost of living adjustment, or COLA, each year. It’s based on a one-year increase in inflation and is designed to help beneficiaries cope when prices rise.
In 2021, the adjustment was 1.3% – which translated into a roughly $20 a month increase for retired workers.
But recipients should think twice before going on a spending spree amid soaring inflation because higher prices will wipe out part of the adjustment. What’s more, Medicare Part B premiums for 2022 are also rising sharply, further cutting into their monthly Social Security checks.
The standard monthly Medicare Part B premium will be $170.10 next year, up from $148.50 for this year.
While the federal minimum wage has remained $7.25 an hour since 2009, many states, cities and counties have raised their thresholds on their own.
Some minimum wage workers receive a raise on or around New Year’s Day every year thanks to automatic cost of living adjustments that are based on inflation. In some other locations, the wage steps up due to scheduled increases enacted in prior legislation.
A total of 74 states, cities and counties raised their minimum wage during 2021, according to the National Employment Law Project, which is still tabulating the number for 2022 but expects it to be about the same.
In Arizona, for instance, the minimum hourly wage will be $12.80 in 2022, up from $12.15 this year. It inched up only 15 cents for 2021.
Minimum hourly wage workers in Colorado will receive $12.56 next year, compared with $12.32 now. And the minimum hourly wage in Belmont, California, will rise to $16.20 come January, up from $15.90 currently.
“Cities, states and counties doing this on their own without waiting for the federal government obviously helps workers,” said Yannet Lathrop, senior researcher at the law project. “There is basically no state, city, county or region in the country where workers can survive on $7.25.”
Also, the minimum wage for federal contractors will rise to $15 an hour during 2022, thanks to an executive order signed by President Joe Biden. It will take effect when new contracts are signed or when certain contract actions, such as extensions or renewals, are executed. An estimated 300,000 people will see a raise, according to Anastasia Christman, worker power program director at the law project.
Food stamp recipients are already receiving more monthly aid, which began with the new federal fiscal year in October.
The average monthly benefit rose to $251 per person, up from $240 per person – even though a 15% federal boost authorized by Congress expired at the end of September.
The increase stems from a permanent update to the US Department of Agriculture’s Thrifty Food Plan, which determines the benefit amount of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the formal name for food stamps. The review was required by the 2018 Farm Bill.
Recipients also received a cost of living adjustment, which is based on food price inflation and kicks in every October. It amounts to $3 a month for the current fiscal year.
The current monthly benefit includes another coronavirus relief enhancement that Congress enacted last year and is still in effect in most states. Lawmakers raised enrollees’ food stamp allotment to the maximum amount for their family size during the pandemic. Biden extended the measure earlier this year to an additional 25 million people in very low-income households who originally didn’t receive the additional benefits.
Without this congressional measure, the average monthly benefit would be $169.
Nearly 41.7 million people were receiving food stamps as of August, according to the most recent federal data.