COVID-19 exacerbated long wait times for Social Security services, but a new study says budget cuts had weakened the agency before the pandemic.
The Center on Budget on Policy Priorities (CBPP) says Congress cut the agency’s operating budget by 17% since 2010 after adjusting for inflation.
As a result, the agency closed field offices and cut staff, resulting in longer wait times.
Ten states — Alaska, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin — lost more than 20% of their Social Security staff since 2010, and four states — Alaska, Iowa, Virginia and West Virginia — lost more than 25%, according to a CNBC report that crunched the numbers in the CBPP report.
Older persons rely on Social Security for benefits, but non-beneficiaries also need to get replacement Social Security cards and other services.
CBPP said budget cuts and staffing turnover also make it difficult for the agency to plan ahead and make good use of its resources.
“The agency, because it’s been so hamstrung by budget cuts, isn’t able to really plan effectively,” Kathleen Romig, director of Social Security and disability policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told CNBC. “When you see how much staffing has been reduced, it makes sense it’s taking a lot longer to pick up the phone, [and] it’s taking a lot longer to process a disability.”