Report: Social Security Puts $7.2 Billion into Iowa Economy

By Dave DeWitte, Reporter

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, and Joyce Hermanstorfer, a regional board member for the Alliance for Retired Americans, attended a “birthday party” commemorating 75 years of the Social Security program on Wednesday, August 4, at the Witwer Center, 605 2nd Ave. SE. (photo by Dave DeWitte)

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By Becky Ogann

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Social Security pays out $7.2 billion in benefits to Iowans each year, according to a new report, helping support one of every six Iowa residents.

The Strengthen Social Security Campaign released the report Tuesday, August 4, in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Social Security. It was cited by speakers at a Social Security “birthday party” held Wednesday morning at the Witwer Center in Cedar Rapids by The Alliance for Retired Americans.

The report is a detailed description of where Social Security benefits go in Iowa and the nation, with the largest group by far being women retirees.

Without Social Security, the report said, 50.8 percent of Iowa women aged 65 or older would make less than the federally established poverty level.

Sixty-seven percent of the beneficiaries receiving Social Security in Iowa are retired workers, the report said.
The median benefit received by a retired worker (the level at which half received more and half less) in Iowa is about $14,000 annually.

“Fair,” is how one Social Security retirement beneficiary described the program.

Eva Curtis, an 82-year-old Social Security birthday party attendee from Cedar Rapids, said she’s been drawing the benefits since she retired at 82 from her job as a restaurant cook. She said she appreciates what it’s done for her, she said, but only wishes it provided more.

Another 12 of Social Security recipients in Iowa percent are disabled workers. The median benefit for a disabled worker in Iowa is about $11,200 annually.

The remainder are widowers (10 percent) children (7 percent) and spouses (5 percent).

The median survivors benefit for widowers is $13,700.
Women make up the greatest percentage of beneficiaries – 57.9 percent.

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, was among the speakers who described the difference Social Security made in his life.

Loebsack said he was raised by a single mom. The family bounced around before moving in with his grandmother, who lived on Social Security survivor benefits, Loebsack said.

When Loebsack was in high school, his father died. Although his father had not been supporting him, he became eligible for a modest monthly survivors benefit of $100 per month, he said.

“Without these benefits, I would not have made it through college,” the congressman said.

James Kennedy of the Social Security Administration office in Cedar Rapids said the push for Social Security was generated by the radio oratory of Father Charles Coughlin and the political discourse of U.S. Sen. Huey Long of Louisiana in the aftermath of the Great Depression.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered a commission to study ways to provide social security in 1934, a time of major economic and demographic changes. Economic changes were resulting in more families relying on wage employment than self-employment in farms and small businesses. The Great Depression had stripped away the assets that many had saved for retirement.

The bill that created Social Security was enacted into law on August 14, 1935, Kennedy said. It initially provided retirement benefits only for those age 65 or older.

A total of 107,081 residents in Iowa’s second congressional district receive Social Security out of a total of 586,737 residents, the report said.

Without social Security, about 157,000 Iowa residents 65 years of age or older would be in poverty, the report said.

Statistics in the report were provided by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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