1933 : Michigan Old Age Assistance Act Predates U.S. Social Security Act

When:
July 7, 2018 all-day
2018-07-07T00:00:00-04:00
2018-07-08T00:00:00-04:00

Today (July 7) marks the day in 1933 that former Gov. William A. Comstock, Democrat, signed the Old Age Assistance Act, which provided a monthly pension of up to $30 to seniors 70 years old or older who had lived in the state for at least 10 years.

Michigan’s Old Age Assistance Act, signed into law in 1933, predated the federal Social Security Act of 1935, and helped low-income seniors survive the Great Depression.

Michigan’s Old Age Assistance Act, signed into law in 1933, predated the federal Social Security Act of 1935, and helped low-income seniors survive the Great Depression.

The act was passed as the Great Depression had taken hold of America. Michigan struggled even more than most other parts of the country. Our state’s unemployment rate reached 34 percent between 1930-1933, while the rate was 26 percent nationwide. At that time, much of the social safety net that protects people today simply did not exist as it does now. There was no such thing as unemployment insurance or Social Security, which was created in 1935. With little to fall back on when hard times hit, millions of Americans struggled to survive as the Great Depression worsened. That was especially true of America’s seniors, who often had no pensions, no jobs and whose savings were often wiped out by the stock market crash and ensuing economic downturn.

The movement to protect seniors gathered steam as the Great Depression took hold, and Michigan became one of 10 states to enact “old age assistance” in 1933. In 1934, Michigan gave assistance to 2,660 seniors at an expense of $306,096 to the state.  By June 1939, there were 83,275 seniors in the program receiving $1.4 million in aid.

The old age assistance programs across the country were modified once the federal Social Security Act was passed in 1935. For a time, the states’ Old Age Assistance programs and the federal Social Security Old Age Insurance programs worked in consort, ensuring that people nearing retirement age didn’t lose out on benefits as the funds needed to run Social Security were built up. Over time, Social Security benefits became the predominant program for seniors. Michigan’s Old Age Assistance program does still exist, though today it applies to a much smaller group of people, and its application is limited.

Source :”Seniors in the Great Depression Get Assistance“, Official Blog of the Michigan House Democrats, July 76, 2014.

Leave a Reply