Utah news connection
SALT LAKE CITY — The clock is ticking on the "fiscal cliff" debate, and local advocates say hundreds of thousands of Utah seniors have a major stake - as does the state's economy.
Danny Harris, associate state director for advocacy at AARP Utah, says his group held dozens of "You've Earned a Say" conversations in the state this year. Folks across party lines expressed a desire for a long-term solution to strengthening Social Security and Medicare, he says, adding that more than a quarter million seniors in Utah count on Social Security.
"The average benefit in our state is a little over $14,000, so it's not a lot of lot of money that each of them receives, but it makes up a good share of their total household income."
Harris says Social Security added more than $4 billion in benefits to the state's economy in 2011. Without that benefit, he says, another 33 percent of Utah seniors would fall into poverty.
Utah is a state that prides itself on self-reliance, Harris says, and what often gets lost in the ongoing debate is that local seniors have spent a lifetime paying into the system.
"We know that people in Utah don't want to see seniors thrown off the fiscal cliff, all of that debt be balanced on the backs of those who depend on those important programs, and so we want to make sure that seniors are represented in these discussions to come up with a solution that everyone can live with."
As part of the big picture in the "fiscal cliff" debate, AARP data shows half of Americans age 65 and older are living on less than $20,000 a year.
Thousands of people in Utah also voiced their opinions via "You've Earned a Say" questionnaires. More information is online at aarp.org.