Counting money

Senior advocates say prescription-drug costs and challenges in building a robust retirement package are forcing more seniors to work in their golden years. They say this age group needs full access to jobless benefits amid the current crisis. (Adobe Stock)

MINNEAPOLIS -- Studies show more older Americans face economic insecurity, and in Minnesota, some seniors say rules limiting their ability to collect unemployment make it harder to survive.

Despite reform efforts in other states, Minnesota still has what's called an "offset law," which can reduce or prevent jobless benefits for those who collect or have signed up for Social Security.

Reform advocates say not all seniors are able to retire comfortably these days.

Anne from Minneapolis, who chose not to use her full name out of retaliation concerns, said her marketing career took a hit during the pandemic.

Because she recently applied for Social Security, she can't rely on a weekly unemployment check, including the extra federal boost during the crisis.

"Basically, it is taking away my ability to take care of myself as I get older," Anne explained.

She shared she's now living primarily off her Social Security, which is only about $800 a month.

AARP is working with House members on advancing a bill that would remove the offsets.

It's unclear if the Department of Employment and Economic Development backs the proposed changes, but it did express support for updating laws after advocates for teens successfully sued the state last year over access to jobless benefits.

A study by the Retirement Equity Lab estimates as many as 25 million seniors in the U.S. could be living in poverty within the next ten years.

Kate Schaefers, state director for AARP Minnesota, said that's why laws such as the one in Minnesota could result in more hardships if changes aren't enacted soon.

"This offset provision is impacting our older adults who are lower-income," Schaefers contended. "And they oftentimes are working because they need to continue to work. They can't live off of Social Security alone."

She added the crisis has shown it's not just working-age adults who need these benefits right now, noting teens and their families, as well as those 65 and older, are more reliant on assistance for basic needs than in the past.

As for any concerns about adding costs for the state, Schaefers argued it's a matter of fairness as the economic crisis plays out.

"The cost is there, but we're asking the worker to bear the burden of that cost right now by reducing their benefit at a time when people are really struggling," Schaefers stated.

As for the offset bill in the House, it's currently at the committee stage.

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