The Social Security Administration (SSA) would get $14.8 billion from President Joe Biden's $5.8 trillion fiscal year 2023 budget to enhance its pandemic-hit services, which are used by about 70 million Americans.
The additional $1.6 billion for services would go to field offices, state disability determination services, and teleservice centers, according to CNBC.
The funding would also be used to hire more people to assist cut down on wait times and expedite the processing of disability applications.
The figure represents a $1.6 billion increase, or 14%, over budget levels authorized in 2021.
The plan would also allow the agency to make modifications to ensure that everyone who requires its services, including the homeless, children with impairments, and adults with intellectual or mental challenges, had access to them.
Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works, discussed the several benefits of Social Security offices reopening in early April after being closed for two years due to the pandemic.
"It was wrong to keep them closed (to all but those deemed to be in dire need) for so long. Post offices never closed. Like them, Social Security's field offices provide essential services. Those two years of closed offices weren't just an inconvenience; the long closure inflicted real harm," she wrote in an op-ed for The Hill.
Altman emphasized that during the two years that the offices were closed, disability claims fell dramatically, at a time when they should have soared due to the pandemic. According to significant research, closing just one office results in significantly fewer claims from people who would have qualified for benefits if they had applied.
She believes that advocating for additional funding and expanded benefits for SSA's key services is the proper thing to do.
Biden's proposed funding, which could substantially enhance customer service and cut wait times on the agency's 800 number, was praised by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Nonetheless, the group had hoped for more in the budget.
"While we appreciate many aspects of the President's FY2023 budget proposal, we had hoped that it would reflect efforts by Democrats in Congress to boost Social Security, including a much-needed increase in benefits and an adjustment of the payroll wage cap so that the wealthy pay their fair share into the system," Max Richtman, president and CEO of the group, said in a statement, per CNBC.
Meanwhile, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget seemed dissatisfied with the budget's failure to address worries that Social Security's trust fund reserves could be drained by 2034.