David Jolly joins Alan Grayson in trying to increase COLA’s for Social Security benefits

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A drop in fuel prices brought the inflation rate to zero last year, removing any increase for those receiving Social Security benefits. By law, the annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is based on a government measure of inflation.

With Florida’s huge senior population (who vote in higher numbers than any other demographic), it makes sense that officials running for statewide office in Florida would promise seniors that they’ll address that, whatever the odds of passage.

Two men running for U.S. Senate in Florida this year – Congressmen David Jolly and Alan Grayson – are proposing such legislation.

Admitting that Democrats have tried to pass similar legislation without success, Pinellas County Republican David Jolly announced to a group of seniors in Largo on Monday a proposal he has introduced that will change the formula used to calculate annual Social Security benefits.

Noting how the Social Security COLA has been flat in the three of the past six years, Jolly said his bill – called the Keeping Our Promise to Seniors Act (H.R.4551), would mean seniors would be more likely to receive an annual benefit increase that matches the increased cost of products and services they purchase, like groceries, healthcare, and housing.

“Many seniors depend on Social Security as their primary source of income after retirement, and the government has made a promise to provide them with the benefits they have earned and paid into,” Jolly said.  “We must make the system work to ensure that the income seniors receive keeps up with the rising costs of living they face.”

The Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate said the bill would allow for a new COLA formula index specifically designed for seniors. Currently, he noted, the formula for increasing the COLA is focused more on people in the throes of their career, with an emphasis on education and commuting costs.

“I’ll be honest with you,” he told a group of about 50 seniors at the Royal Palms, a senior living community in Largo. “Many on the left have already tried to take on this issue, but they’re the minority party in Congress, and they have not been able to get it done.”

One of those on the left is Orlando-area Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson, who Jolly could be facing up against in the U.S. Senate race this fall.

Grayson announced his Seniors Deserve a Raise Act” (HB 3761) last fall. It would tie future cost-of-living adjustments to a new index called the CPIE, or consumer price index for seniors.

“My bill calls for a 2.9% COLA for 2016, and ensures we give them a more accurate cost-of-living increase in the years ahead,” Grayson said when he announced the proposal last October. “Our seniors are seeing their costs rise – their Social Security payments need to rise as well.”

Grayson’s bill acquired 74 co-sponsors in the House, and it was referred to the House Committee on Armed Services: Subcommittee on Military Personnel, and one other committee, but has not made it out of those committees.

Congressman Grayson did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.