B’nai B’rith International is cautiously optimistic that a temporary budget and debt ceiling deal, announced by the Senate leadership, will be passed on the House floor and then expeditiously moved through the Senate, avoiding the first ever U.S. debt default and ending the government shutdown.
As the country teeters at the brink of default at the 11th hour, if this deal should fall apart, it could have traumatic impacts on both the domestic and international economies, and severely impact seniors and other vulnerable people.
The immediate impact of a default on the country’s debt would mean the drying up of Social Security payments possibly within the first few weeks. This is an outcome that is entirely possible and also entirely unacceptable.
Of elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 23 percent of married couples and about 46 percent of unmarried recipients rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. For millions more, Social Security is more than half their income. This would put many seniors in dire straits when it comes to paying their bills, for food and for medical treatment. This is not to mention the multitude of other services that are in serious jeopardy should the government default on its loans, such as meal programs, personal care services and other things on which they rely. These same services have already been threatened and even limited by the government shutdown.
Time has simply run out. We urge Congress to do two things: pass an immediate fix to open the government and raise the debt ceiling, and avoid a similar debacle when these short-term fixes end. Defaulting would be an unprecedented disaster, one that is sure to hurt millions of Americans, especially seniors, and should not be treated as political football.