Social Security benefits to increase 3.6 percent

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - Next year Social Security benefits will increase 3.6 percent for the more than 60 million Americans who receive the monthly income.

The increase is the first cost-of-living adjustment in two yearsAlmost 5,000 people in Lawrence County are Social Security recipients. Seniors at the Walnut Ridge Senior Wellness Center said they are excited about the increase. "We've been talking about it for the last couple of weeks. People have been kind of wondering what's going to happen," said 67-year-old Martha Baker.

Baker wonders how far the increase will go considering her medical expenses. "There's blood pressure medicine, then there's allergy medicine and then there's thyroid medicine"

Black River Area Development Corporation service coordinator Loretta Tillman said of the 49 Housing and Urban Development (HUD) tenants she rents properties to who collect Social Security still won't have much to spare after the 3.6 percent raise. "I'm sure they'll appreciate it, but it won't help that much," she said.

The tenants receive $8, 328 in benefits annually.  The 3.6 percent increase will raise their benefits to $8, 616 annually, which equals $288 more per year, or $24 per month. HUD collects one-third of the tenants' income for rent and utility bills. After a $7 increase in bills due to the increased income, tenants will be left with an extra $17.

Baker said she and her friends take advantage of other ways to save, such as free lunch at the Walnut Ridge Senior Wellness Center.

"I can go to the local restaurant here and tell them that I want my senior discount. So that's always nice. "We have two or three places here."

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