Manhattan Events Set to Celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Social Security Program

NEW YORK, NY (08/19/2010)(readMedia)-- This year, our nation and its people celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Social Security Program. To mark this occasion and to remind all New Yorkers of the special significance of the anniversary to New York because of President Franklin Roosevelt's relentless work to see the enabling legislation come to fruition, Governor David A. Paterson proclaimed August 2010 to be Social Security Diamond Anniversary Month in New York State. The Social Security Program, enacted on August 14, 1935 continues to be an important family income protection program for disabled workers, surviving family members, children and retired older Americans.

During the month of August New Yorkers will be invited to a number of events and celebrations to mark this important milestone in the program. At the kick-off event that took place on August 3rd in Albany, NY Michael Burgess, Director of the New York State Office for the Aging released the Governor's Proclamation and unveiled a temporary display that will be located in the North Concourse of the Empire State Plaza during the month of August.

Upon issuing the proclamation, Governor Paterson said, "Today we celebrate not only the signing of the landmark legislation that resulted in the Social Security Program, but the achievement of one of our nation's great leaders, President Franklin Roosevelt, a native New Yorker. We know that the work and initiatives that President Roosevelt forged in New York State while Governor set the stage for what was achieved on a national level with the signing of the Social Security Act seventy-five years ago."

On August 19th, Manhattan celebrates with two events scheduled on that day. The first event held in the morning at Taino Towers at 240 E. 123 Street was followed by an afternoon event held at the Hunter College Kaye Playhouse at 695 Park Avenue. At both events, community leaders, Social Security Program experts and scholars, along with local elected officials and representatives of the events planning committee that included the New York State Office for the Aging, the Business and Labor Coalition of New York (BALCONY), the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the NYS Alliance for Retired Americans, Local 237/IBT/Retiree Division, the Institute for Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly, Services Now for Adult Persons (SNAP), and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) were part of the day's programming.

At the events in Manhattan, officials released the report, "Social Security Works for New York," a compilation of information and data related to the Social Security Program and the beneficiaries it provides benefits for in New York State. Some of the facts included in the report include:

• Social Security lifts out of poverty 813,000 New York residents aged 65 and older.

• Social Security provides disability benefits for more than 453,000 workers.

• Social Security provides survivors' benefits to more than 252,800 New York widow(er)s.

• Social Security is the most important source of income for the more than 409,000 children living in New York's grandfamilies, which are households headed by a grandparent or other relative.

• Without Social Security, the elderly Latino poverty rate in New York would increase from roughly 1 out of 6 (17.9 percent) to 1 out of 2 (50.7 percent).

The events were attended by citizens from across the New York City boroughs. As part of the celebrations held at both sites, event attendees were entertained by local individuals and groups that regularly perform at senior centers and sites and had the opportunity to obtain information about the Social Security Program and other programming of interest to seniors. At the events, field representatives from the Social Security Administration and from the Medicare program were available to answer beneficiary questions and resolve problems.

At Taino Towers, Dabney Montgomery, a Harlem resident who is a past recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and former Tuskegee Airman was among those making comments regarding the Social Security Program and the difference it has made in their lives.

On the day of the signing of the Social Security Act in Washington, DC, President Roosevelt said, "We can never insure one-hundred percent of the population against one-hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life. But we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age."

New York State's and first federal woman Labor Commissioner, Frances Perkins, chaired the Committee on Social Security for President Roosevelt. With the Social Security Act, she established unemployment benefits, pensions for the many uncovered elderly Americans, and public assistance for the poorest Americans. Social Security was then, and remains today a critical cornerstone in the financial security for millions of citizens. For decades, the program provided for many, the only income they had in retirement, or in disability.

Today's older adults were children and teenagers when President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the lives of older Americans forever when on Aug. 14, 1935, he signed the Social Security Act into law.

Those citizens remember the difficult years when old age often meant life would be bleak, and the fear of having to enter poor houses for those whose families couldn't support them. And they remember the difference that Social Security made in ordinary people's lives. Yet on the edge of the program's 75th anniversary, most of them can't imagine retirement without the small cushion of funds and dignity that Social Security provides.

The Social Security Program continues to provide important benefits to retirees, children, widows and the disabled.

Today, 75 years later:

• Nine of ten individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits and Social Security benefits represent nearly 40% of the income of the elderly.

• Among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 52% of married couples and 72% of unmarried persons receive 50% or more of their income from Social Security.

• Among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 20% of married couples and nearly 41% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.

• An estimated 159 million workers, 94% of all workers, are covered under Social Security while 52% of the workforce has no private pension coverage, and 31% of the workforce has no savings set aside specifically for retirement.

• In New York State alone, Social Security benefits paid each month to New York State residents totals more than $3.5 billion.

Nancy B. True, Director, Teamsters Local 237 Retiree Division, and Secretary of the NYS Alliance for Retired Americans said, "Social Security is one of our nation's greatest accomplishments. As a family protection program, it has provided financial security for generations of retired and disabled workers and their families and the surviving spouses and children of deceased workers. Without Social Security, 55 percent of disabled workers and their families, 47 percent of elderly households and 1.3 million children would live in poverty. We need to spread the word to people of all ages to help ensure Social Security remains strong for generations to come."

Suleika Cabrera-Drinane said, "On behalf of the Institute for Puerto Rican Hispanic Elderly, Inc. (IPR/HE) I am very pleased that we have been able to work with our community partners, local elected officials and sponsors to bring attention to the importance of the Social Security Program, especially to the Hispanic / minority communities, as we celebrate the program's 75th anniversary."

"Social Security is without doubt the most successful government program in history," said Lois Aronstein, AARP New York State Director. "It's an earned benefit for a lifetime of work and contributions. It's put new clothes on the children of injured factory works, and dinner on the table of families who lost a parent. It's been a lifeline for tens of millions of Americans."

Michael J. Burgess, Director of the New York State Office for the Aging said, "We are indeed fortunate today to be at a point in time where we are at the 75th anniversary mark of the program that has brought income security to millions of New York families through the decades. Today, as we face challenging economic times, and can look back in our nation's history to see how the leadership and wisdom of Franklin Roosevelt made for better lives for New Yorkers and all Americans. We must continue to insure the program remains strong for future generations to come."

"BALCONY, the Business and Labor Coalition of New York, is thrilled to be celebrating 75 years of Social Security. BALCONY believes in maintaining and promoting the integrity and the promise of Social Security now and for future generations of Americans," said Nicholas Kapustinsky, BALCONY Research and Communications Director.

Andrew Pallotta, NYSUT Executive Vice President said: "Social Security is not just a pension support plan that protects retirees. It is a family protection plan, too, with benefits that cover every generation."

Beneficiaries attending the events had the following to offer regarding what Social Security has meant to them:

"I am very fortunate since my disability occurred to be receiving Social Security Disability. Without it, I could not function and my bills could not be paid. Social Security Disability means a sense of security for me." [Nancy Schwarz]

"The word "security" says it all. Without a pension or other income, my in-laws would have had nothing if it were not for Social Security. Social Security let them have a decent life, have a roof over their heads and be apart of society." [Joyce Mensoff]

When the Social Security Program was put in place in 1935 it helped add stability to American citizens who otherwise may not have had an income at all - just as it does today.