WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Senate prepares to vote today on legislation that would provide emergency assistance to nearly 1.5 million Ohio seniors, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a news conference call to discuss efforts to provide a one-time, $250 check to senior citizens to offset the rising costs of prescription drugs and other necessities. In October, the Social Security Administration announced—for the second year in a row—that there would be no cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase for Social Security recipients for the coming year.

“Too many Ohio seniors face higher costs and a stagnant income. No senior should have to choose between prescription drugs or keeping the heat on,” Brown said. “Because our nation did not experience across-the-board inflation last year and doesn’t expect to next year, the Social Security Administration has determined that no cost-of-living-adjustment is necessary.

“But when seniors spend nearly 45 percent of their income on health care and prescription drugs – and because these costs are expected to rise – they need a cost-of-living-adjustment,” Brown continued. “By failing to act, more seniors could fall into poverty. Social Security is one of our nation’s most successful anti-poverty programs.  It’s not a hand-out, it’s an insurance mechanism.”

Brown also released a county-by-county analysis showing the number of senior citizens who would stand to benefit from the emergency $250 payment.  The analysis showed that 175,535 seniors in Cuyahoga County would receive the benefit, in addition to 97,480 seniors in Hamilton County and 100,245 seniors in Franklin County.

Just after the Social Security Administration’s October announcement, Brown was one of six senators to send a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asking him to support legislation that would provide Social Security recipients with an emergency $250 payment in lieu of a COLA increase. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, health care spending, projected to increase by 4.2 percent next year, already consumes close to 45 percent of seniors’ spending.

As of 2009, the median retiree Social Security benefit is $14,000. Social Security lifts more than half a million Ohio seniors out of poverty. A $250.00 increase is equivalent to a 1.78% COLA.