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U.S. Labor Market Strength Steadies Social Security and Medicare Funds

The financial health of Social Security and Medicare, two of the nation’s most crucial safety net programs, has improved this year as a stronger-than-expected U.S. economy attracted more workers to the labor market, buttressing funding for the critical programs.

Annual reports released on Monday by trustees of the old age and retirement programs showed that while both still face long-term shortfalls that could ultimately result in reduced retirement and medical benefits, lawmakers will have slightly more time before they begin to fray. About 70 million people receive Social Security benefits, and more than 66 million participate in Medicare.

The fate of the popular programs continues to be a contentious political issue, one that is expected to intensify as the November presidential election draws near. President Biden has pledged to block any cuts to Social Security and Medicare and has called for shoring up the programs with higher taxes on the rich. Former President Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, suggested this year that he was open to scaling back the programs when he said there was “a lot you can do in terms of entitlements in terms of cutting.” He later walked back those comments and pledged to protect the programs.

Biden administration officials said the upgraded outlook for the programs was a sign that Mr. Biden’s economic agenda was working and insisted that they would resist any proposed cuts.

“Seniors spent a lifetime working to earn the benefits they receive, and the Biden-Harris administration will continue to oppose cuts to either program,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in a statement. “We are committed to steps that would protect and strengthen these programs that Americans rely on for a secure retirement.”

Martin O’Malley, the commissioner of Social Security, said that as long as Americans continued to work, the retirement program would be able to keep paying benefits while calling on Congress to provide more funding for the trust fund to ensure its long-term solvency.

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