Sánchez introduces bill to strengthen Social Security benefits for widows, widowers

July 29, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), a senior member of the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee, today introduced the Protecting Our Widows and Widowers in Retirement (POWR) Act.

“Losing a spouse is devastating. And for those who depend on Social Security, the added financial distress of losing significant income can make an already difficult time even more troubling,” said Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez. “The POWR Act will create an alternative benefit, ensuring widows and widowers can keep paying their bills. I am proud to reintroduce this legislation to give some security and peace of mind to those who have lost a loved one.”

According to the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), women suffer a greater financial hit following the loss of a loved one. The NASI has said, “The benefits are important to women because wives tend to earn less than their husbands and they typically outlive their husbands – both because women live longer than men, on average, and because wives tend to be a few years younger than their husbands.”

Despite women participating more in the workforce in recent years, they continue to rely more heavily on Social Security than men. The average widow sees a 33 to 50 percent reduction in Social Security benefits after the death of her spouse. However, on average, an elderly person needs 79 percent of the income received while both were alive to maintain their standard of living. The POWR Act would create an alternative benefit equal to 75 percent of the combined income received while both spouses were alive.

Cosponsors of the POWR Act include Reps. Steve Cohen (TN-09), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Grace Napolitano (CA-52), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large). Multiple organizations have also endorsed this legislation, including Social Security Works, Justice in Aging, Alliance for Retired Americans, AFSCME, The Strengthen Social Security Coalition, and the Center for American Progress.

Congresswoman Sánchez first introduced this legislation in 2016.