On Wednesday the House passed a one week Continuing Resolution to avoid a government shutdown and to extend the time period to fully fund the governement through September 2023. Congress last funded the government (through a continuing resolution) for the fiscal year that began in October through December 16th. Both parties claim a desire to pass a full appropriations package that funds the government through September 2023. Funding the Social Security Administration is of particular concern.
Complaints of service problems with Social Security increased during the pandemic. Currently field offices are open on a limited basis for in-person service. Over the pandemic period, disabled claimants waited 29 to 45 days for a phone appointment to file a claim. Wait times for all phone calls to the agency averaged 33 minutes – with much longer times reported. Claims processing times increased 45% (from 95 days to 139 days) at the intial application. Field offices faced staff departures and struggled to attract new hires. Years of underinvestment in the agency combined with the pandemic severely affected service. From 2010 to 2021 the agency’s budget (adjusted for inflation) fell 14% as its caseload increased by 21%. As a result Social Security struggles to provide essential services to the disabled and retirees.
In the continuing resolution, Congress funded SSA with bipartisan support at $400 million above the fiscal year 2022 level. This funding increase staved off additional service-related problems created by a hiring and overtime freeze necessitated by low funding. The Biden administration asked for a 12% increase over 2022 funding.