- President Joe Biden called for "protecting and strengthening" Social Security with the introduction of his fiscal 2024 budget Thursday.
- The plan is light on details for long-term fixes to Social Security. But it does call for increased funding to help alleviate long waits for services.
His statement stopped short, however, of proposing a specific plan to restore Social Security's trust funds.
Lawmakers are discussing ways to shore up the program, which may not be able to pay full benefits as soon as 2033, according to a recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.
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Among the options on the table are raising the full retirement age from 67 to 70. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have also led a plan that would make income over $250,000 subject to Social Security taxes.
However, Biden's budget reaffirms his intentions that "no one earning less than $400,000 per year will pay a penny in new taxes."
At the same time, the budget also indicates that the administration "looks forward to working with Congress to responsibly strengthen Social Security by ensuring high-income individuals pay their fair share."
Biden has proposed raising Medicare taxes to 5%, from 3.8%, for both earned and unearned income over $400,000. The changes are aimed at shoring up Medicare's funds for at least 25 years.
"We were very happy with the way that President Biden talked about Social Security and Medicare and cuts being off the table," said Dan Adcock, director of government relations and policy at the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
While Biden's budget did not include specific plans for Social Security, his stance suggesting he will make the wealthy pay their fair share to help shore up the program goes further than a lot of his predecessors have, Adcock noted.
Biden had previously suggested raising the limit on the Social Security payroll taxes during his campaign, but "this is the first time while president he specifically laid down that marker," Adcock said.
However, Maya MacGuineas, president of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said in a statement that the lack of a plan to address Social Security's trust fund shortfall is a "glaring omission" in the president's budget.
"The Social Security trust fund is projected to be insolvent within the next dozen years, and delaying action puts those who depend on the program the most at risk," MacGuineas said.
Biden's budget also calls for other changes, including enhanced funding for the Social Security Administration and a new paid family and medical leave program that would be administered by the agency.
Biden is requesting a 10% boost — a $1.4 billion increase — to the Social Security Administration's operating budget over the amount enacted in 2023. The funding would total $15.5 billion.
The funds would be used to improve customer service at Social Security's field offices, after long in-person waits and 800-number hold times have become increasingly common. The funds would help improve 800-number access and online services.
The funds would also be used for state disability determination services and teleservice centers.
The budget also calls for adding staff to help reduce wait times and increase processing of disability claims, simplifying the Supplemental Security Income application process and increasing outreach.
The extra funds "would help a lot," Adcock said.
"It would help them to go beyond treading water in terms of improving their customer service, particularly the huge backlog they have in Social Security disability claims," he added.
Biden also renewed a push for a national paid family and medical leave program with the budget proposal.
The program would provide partial wage replacement for up to 12 weeks to care for a new child, a loved one or for personal medical issues.
Democrats recently pushed for an expanded federal paid leave policy on the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows for unpaid leave for qualifying employees.
"There are still a lot of problems that can't be solved without some form of paid leave," former President Bill Clinton said in February at a White House event.
However, it remains to be seen how the Social Security Administration may handle the added responsibility.
"We certainly support paid family leave," Adcock said.
However, because the agency's operating budget is subject to the appropriations process, it would be difficult to ensure the needed funding would continuously be available.
"They would not have a way of guaranteeing that the Social Security Administration would get the resources they would need for that administrative burden," Adcock said.