TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Implemented in 1935, Social Security distributes hundreds of billions of dollars to senior citizens and people with disabilities throughout the nation every year.
Social Security turned 84 on Wedesday. Seniors throughout Florida held birthday celebrations for the program that benefits more than half a million people in the state.
Their motto: Cut the cake, not Social Security.
"This is the kind of legislation that makes America great," said Terry Joe Chapman with the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans.
For retirees like Barbara DeVane, Social Security is a lifeline.
"It's all that stands between me and poverty, and I'm not alone," DeVane said.
Advocates for retirees said one of their greatest challenges is dispelling the myth that today's youth will never see the benefits of the program.
Sasha Moore, a student at Florida State University, said she's unsure if the program will survive until her retirement.
"I haven't been taught anything about it. It's just, like, hearsay," Moore said.
Another student, Justin Baldwin, said he was preparing for a worst-case scenario.
"That's just kind of how I live my life, you know? I'm not really relying on it," Baldwin said.
Bill Sauers with the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans said the program is self-sustaining.
"The more people you have involved the lower the cost and the risk for everyone involved," Sauers said.
Baby boomers are projected to see smaller payments by 2035, but Sauers said even that could be avoided by raising the current cap. Annual earnings above $132,900 aren't subject to the 6.2% Social Security tax.
"Raise that to $250,000, we would have enough money to pay 100% benefits for ever and ever. Amen! Plus have money to expand it," Sauers said.
As of 2019, retiring at age 66 comes with a maximum payout of $2,861 a month. More than 578,000 Floridians received nearly $325 million through Social Security in 2017 alone.