EL PASO — The standoff continues between the White House and Republicans in Congress over the looming fiscal cliff.
Lawmakers have less than one month to agree on taxes and budget cuts. One item on the chopping block is budget and staffing cuts at the Social Security Administration.
The poor economy and job market have led to record numbers of Americans applying for Social Security benefits. However, as the number of applicants increases, the number of employees to process those applications continues to decrease.
According to Patsy Ybarra, Union Representative at the El Paso Social Security Administration, the system is backlogged, which means people often must endure hardship while they wait to receive retirement, survivor or disability benefits.
"The public is suffering from these cuts because they come all at one time, but we can't service everybody in one day. We service between 700 to 600 people in one day. And with these budget cuts, we can't maintain the same level of service for these individuals," said Ybarra.
The Social Security Administration is urging people to process their applications online, but that is especially challenging for the elderly and disabled who often need personalized service.
Budget cuts could mean a loss of between $600 million to $1 billion in funding for the agency. By the end of next summer the agency will have lost 9,000 employees nationwide, at a time when 10,000 baby boomers reach 65 years old every single day making them eligible to apply for retirement benefits.