Norwalk Reflector: Ohio economy driven by $32.7 billion in Social Security benefits

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Ohio economy driven by $32.7 billion in Social Security benefits

By Alan Johnson • Aug 1, 2016 at 3:00 PM

A monthly Social Security check is a lifeline for many elderly and disabled Ohioans but few people know how much the money helps drive the economy.

A new report shows that 1 in 5, or 2.27 million Ohioans, receive Social Security benefits monthly, adding up to $32.7 billion annually. The economic impact reaches $55.9 billion when "rollover" is calculated as benefit dollars are spent on goods and services. All statistics are based on 2014 numbers.

Nearly two-thirds of beneficiaries are retired, with 16 percent disabled; the remainder are widows, widowers, spouses and children.

Nationally, the overall economic impact is $1.6 trillion annually, according to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation, a nonprofit group established to analyze and support Social Security, the national social insurance program for individuals and families.

The report says Social Security "touches the lives of virtually every American family, yet the program’s economic contributions ... continue to be misunderstood and often ignored."

"This comprehensive data details what America’s retirees, people with disabilities, survivors and their families know first-hand — Social Security plays a vital economic role for families, communities and businesses throughout America."

The analysis was released last week as politicians debate the future of the program signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on Aug. 14, 1935.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has proposed expanding some benefits while Republican nominee Donald Trump says he would not cut the program.

Changes are unavoidable, however, because Social Security faces long-term financial problems as baby boomers retire and fewer, younger workers are shouldering the burden of taxes feeding the program. Federal officials say there are now three workers paying for every person receiving benefits, a drop from five people paying in 1960.

Social Security will be insolvent in fewer than 20 years unless one of two options, neither of them popular, is taken: cutting benefits or increasing taxes.

Looking at Ohio, the report breaks down benefits by counties and congressional districts, race and gender:

White people make up nearly 88 percent, blacks 9.18 percent, Latinos 1.2 percent and Asians less than 1 percent.

More women (51.2 percent) than men (41.5 percent) receive benefits, with children accounting for 7.4 percent.

More than 400,000 Ohio veterans receive benefits, averaging $1,356 per month.

Cuyahoga County had by far the largest number of recipients and benefits, 251,120 people and $3.65 billion, followed by Franklin (168,160, $2.38 billion); Hamilton (142,995, $2.08 billion); Montgomery (110,315, $1.6 billion); Summit (106,825, $1.6 billion) and Lucas (84,485, $1.2 billion).

In 62 of the 88 counties, at least 20 percent of the population receives retirement or disability benefits.

The far-flung 6th Congressional District, running along the eastern border of the state, has the most Social Security beneficiaries — 169,591 — while the 3rd District in central Ohio had the fewest, 102,306, according to the report.

Critics of Social Security say young people are being unfairly taxed for a program they might never be able to use if it runs out of money.

"Young Americans are already paying too much into a program they won't benefit from, and calls to expand benefits are misguided and irresponsible," said Generation Opportunity, a national nonprofit Libertarian organization advocating for young people. "We need to fix Social Security by giving individuals — not government — greater control of retirement, savings tools and our futures."


©2016 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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