On Monday, more than 100 retired public employees rallied at the Kansas state capitol to demand the state legislature pass a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) this year.
In Kansas, the legislature has not granted a COLA since 1997, more than 23 years ago.
As the cost of medical bills and groceries continues to take a larger and larger bite out of pensions, retirees are left with greater economic insecurity as they try to make ends meet in retirement.
At the rally, several retired public employees shared their reasons why granting a COLA is important for them and their loved ones.
Jane Mellonee, a recently retired educator who taught art for 40 years in Shawnee, Kansas, said lawmakers should pay attention to this issue given the challenges some educators face.
“There are educators in many of our rural areas who are actually homeless,” Mellonee said. “We have to fix this (COLA) problem, and I would urge you all to get involved and talk to your legislators.”
Jim Carlson, a 16-year retiree who taught math for 42 years in Chanute, Kansas, said some of the female retirees he knows experience particularly unique obstacles in retirement.
“I belong to an organization, the Chanute Area Retired School Personnel, and two-thirds of the membership are women, and they are pretty much (all) on a fixed income,” Carlson said. “And you look at them (and) it’s really evident that we need to do something on the COLA.”
Lois Carlson, who worked for Kansas State University for 40 years, said that as the cost of living increases, retirees are finding it harder and harder to keep up.
“Our prices keep going up,” Carlson said. “Our medications as we get older keep going up. And yet although our cost of living is way beyond what we started getting, we’ve seen no change, just more expense, and less income.”