Easing the burden on our seniors
“It was once said that the moral test of a government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and handicapped.” — Hubert H. Humphrey
Throughout our time in office, the Progressive Labour Party has repeatedly demonstrated commitment to our seniors and relieving their burdens in their golden years whenever possible.
Since taking office in 2017, we have kept our promise to increase the prescription drug benefit under FutureCare, resulting in fewer seniors being forced to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine. The PLP government expanded seniors' care benefits under FutureCare to provide them with a broader range of healthcare options.
We have honoured our promise to build more affordable housing for our seniors so that greater numbers can be housed in dignity and comfort while paying less in rental fees.
The Minister of Health continues to work on healthcare reform, which will provide affordable and accessible quality care for all.
We also acted on our promise to introduce a Charter of Rights and Responsibilities for seniors, ensuring that Bermuda keeps pace with global standards on how we care for and protect our seniors.
Continuing in that vein, we are pleased to announce the keeping of another promise to our seniors. In our 2017 election manifesto, we pledged to introduce an annual cost-of-living increase for social insurance pensions at the rate of inflation. Last Friday in Parliament, the Premier tabled the Contributory Pensions (Amendment of Benefits) Order 2022 to increase pensions and other benefits under the Contributory Pensions Act 1970 by 2.75 per cent.
This increase will be backdated to August 16, 2021, as changes to benefits and contributions are made during that month. For those concerned about the impact this would have on the fund, our Government Actuary reports that in the long term, the increase in benefits for our seniors would represent a negligible impact on the overall status of the fund.
This cost-of-living increase will raise the basic contributory pension from $1,077.14 to $1,106.75 per month and the maximum contributory pension from $1,564.18 to $1,607.19 per month. The backdating of these payments will result in the 10,000 residents on social insurance benefits receiving a lump-sum payment of up to $473.11!
We have all seen prices increase at the grocery store as a direct result of conditions increasing inflation worldwide. Given the importance of proper diets to the health and overall wellbeing of our seniors, the Ministry of Finance determined this latest increase should not only fully cover the overall rate of inflation, but also help to provide some relief to our seniors on limited incomes owing to the rise in food prices.
The mandatory retirement age for civil servants was raised to 68, which has enabled persons who wanted to continue to work to do so.
Bermudians should take comfort in knowing that we are a government that is not only committed to our seniors and keeps its promises, but that we are also a government that listens. On the doorstep and in our community, you have told us that you want a Bermuda that respects and protects our seniors — where those who make the least have some of their financial pressures lifted.
Globally, we are in unpredictable, uncertain and dangerous times, and Bermuda is not immune to the worsening conditions around the world. Despite this, Bermudians are fortunate to have a government committed to fiscal responsibility with a social conscience. Your government will use every tool at its disposal to relieve pressure on our people wherever and whenever we can.
• Ianthia Simmons-Wade is a government backbencher and the MP for Warwick North East (Constituency 25)