Debt ceiling deadline could put SS benefits at risk

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Failure to raise the debt ceiling by Oct. 17 could wound the economy and threaten a recession.

If the government misses that deadline, it will default on its debt, running out of money to pay its bills.

The Social Security Administration said if this happens, it could put benefits at risk.

For example, retirees who rely on a monthly Social Security check may not receive it at the end of the month.

"For most of our folks, it would be devastating if those benefits get delayed or stopped," Monte Callicott, executive director of the East Arkansas Area Agency on Aging, said.

More than 112,000 Arkansans rely on Social Security checks every month to more or less survive. Nearly 4,000 of that is in Craighead County.

"So a lot of this is scary for a lot of folks," Callicott said.

Sometimes the agency's clients can rely on their children for help.

"They're living with them to provide the support to be able to stay at home and they have to rely on some of their income to meet the household expenses," Callicott said.

But other times, the money's not there, and some seniors do not even have family to fall back on.

"About 26 percent of the folks we serve also live alone. So it would be even more devastating for them," Callicott said.

Callicott said demand for human services, like the agency and local food banks, would drastically increase and they would not be able to keep up.

"We simply don't have enough folks to cover the need if it comes to that. There's only so much funding, and if our funding starts to be delayed or choked off, then we won't be able to help them a great deal," Callicott said.

There is currently a third of senior Arkansans on food insecurity.

"This would just make the problem that much worse. The longer it goes on, the more problematic it will be," Callicott said.

The government has ten more days to fix this problem.

Lawmakers can adjust the debt ceiling by passing a standalone bill or by including it in another piece of legislation as an amendment.

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