Social Security's Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) is set to raise Social Security benefits by a small amount in 2017.
Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Information for 2017
The Social Security Administration is announcing a Cost-of-Living Adjustment of 0.3% for 2017, after last year in which there was no increase. For those keeping track, the 0.3% increase means you will see about $3 more a month on your check if you are receiving Social Security Disability benefits.
While an increase of $3 sounds painfully low, because the COLA is calculated from the consumer price index, it means that economic inflation in America has not increased very much, which is a good thing!
Still, high healthcare costs and other special living expenses leave many disabled people feeling like the COLA does not even come close to bridging the gap between their benefit amount and their real cost of living.
Coping with increased costs of living on a tight budget
Many Southern Illinois residents who are not able to work their old jobs anymore due to injury or illness find themselves in a tricky situation when they can't stretch their Social Security benefits far enough to meet their needs.
Here are several general recommendations for you if you fall into that category:
1. Use the searchable directory of resources for Illinois at Benefits.gov to identify public resources you may be able to use.
2. If your Social Security Disability benefits disqualify you for SNAP benefits because your income is too high, you can make your food budget go farther by shopping at discount grocery stores like Aldi and sticking to cheap and healthy staples. Here is a list of 44 healthy foods under $1.
3. If you have any unhealthy habits that eat up your budget (like smoking) make a New Year's resolution to kick them for good in 2017. You'll be amazed how much money you can free up this way.
4. Downsize your living situation to just the essentials. Jackson County Housing Authority offers affordable housing to those who have a low income (though there is a wait list). If you have too many possessions to move easily, consider making a donation to your local charity shop, selling them online, or hosting your own estate sale.
There are many more recommendations in my related article, Survival Guide While You Wait for a Decision on Your Social Security Disability Claim.
Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability attorney.