September 8, 2009

Jobless seniors at risk for further loss

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Utah may soon make even deeper cuts to the unemployment pay of senior citizens who are collecting social security, but were also laid off from their jobs.

The state’s population of jobless senior citizens is growing, but employers are fighting to cut their unemployment benefits, reports Tony Semerad of the Salt Lake Tribune. Currently, Utah is one of seven states that docks social security from unemployment benefits for seniors who lose their jobs. A state law expiring half-way through next year would deduct the full amount of social security from unemployment pay. Right now, only half the amount gets deducted.

The debate over the law, which has generated a fierce clash between employers and senior advocates in Utah, provides another glimpse into the creeping financial devastation that affects many older Americans.

The news comes just as the Census Bureau prepares to release latest poverty figures. Those figures are being debated, even before they’re released because of long-standing criticisms they are based on archaic formulas.

The National Academy of Sciences, which has studied the Census calculations, estimates the poverty rate among older Americans is likely nearly twice as high as its traditional 10 percent level, according to Hope Yen of the Associated Press.

In the AP’s story, Robin Talbert, president of the AARP Foundation, calls it a hidden problem. Talbert says: “There are still many millions of older people on the edge, who don’t have what they need to get by.”

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