Personal Finance

Americans take a dim view of raiding their Social Security to cover pandemic expenses, poll finds

Key Points
  • Americans want more financial help from the government.
  • Proposals have included giving individuals as much as $2,000 per month or letting them borrow as much as $11,000 from their future Social Security benefits.
  • Voters weigh in on what they would prefer.
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Americans could use a financial boost. How to get that money into people's hands has been a hot topic of debate.

Democrats have proposed expanding unemployment insurance and giving Americans as much as $2,000 per month to get back on their feet.

Meanwhile, one Republican proposal has called for giving Americans $11,000 now in exchange for every year they agree to delay their Social Security benefits and Medicare coverage.

Now, a poll conducted by Data For Progress and Social Security Works, an advocacy organization, asked Americans which of those two options they would pick. They also asked if people think the government has already done enough.

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Most respondents, 55%, said they want expanded unemployment insurance along with $2,000 per month in income. Meanwhile, 25% said they think the government has already done enough.

Just 20% said they would pick $11,000 in income for every year they delay Social Security and Medicare.

The poll included 1,324 likely voters and was conducted between May 11 and May 14.

Most respondents supported expanded unemployment and $2,000 checks per month when broken down by gender and age and education level. The weakest support for the idea came from Republicans, with 44%, compared to Democrats, at 67%, and Independents, 50%.

The results come as Congress is poised to consider whether to deploy more coronavirus stimulus funding to boost the American economy.

House Democrats have passed a $3 trillion bill that would include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks.

Meanwhile, some Senate Republicans have said the proposal's price tag is too high and have indicated they favor a wait-and-see approach when it comes to providing more aid.

Admittedly, another round of $1,200 checks would fall short of the $2,000 per month in income that Democrats, including Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., proposed earlier this month.

Another conservative proposal calls for letting workers take a $5,000 advance on their Social Security benefits now, rather than $11,000.

Those most likely to support receiving $11,000 for every year they agree to delay government benefits were under age 45. That cohort is more likely to feel that they are not going to get Social Security anyway, according to Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works.

Advocates for protecting Social Security, including Social Security Works, have spoken out against letting Americans borrow against future benefits.

"It's this idea that Social Security is a piggy bank and it's not insurance and that you can get some cash now and all you have to do is trade away your future security," said Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works.

Similar concerns have been expressed by other politicians, including Reps. John Larson, D-Conn., and Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, who recently co-wrote a letter to the State Department on the matter.

"In this moment of crisis, when millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet and fear for their retirement, we should be enhancing Social Security, not developing policies to reduce benefits," Larson and Castro wrote.

White House likely to support new round of stimulus checks
White House likely to support new round of stimulus checks