If all goes as planned, the Social Security office in East Memphis will close on December 28th, leaving 75,000 beneficiaries with the burden of traveling miles away to receive assistance.
The East Memphis office, located on Players Club Parkway, is slated to close due to administrative budget cuts.
The closure is estimated to save $300,000 annually. However, it will leave thousands with the inconvenience of traveling to one of three other Social Security offices for service — the closest being a nearly 20-minute drive on Humphreys Boulevard.
"These folks are going to have to go to offices that are already overrun," said Pete Harris, local president of the American Federation of Government Employees. "A lot of people [won't] receive service now. It's sad but true."
The East Memphis office currently serves more than 35 zip codes. On an average day, the office sees more than 150 walk-ins and receives more than 500 telephone calls.
Over the past two years, around 40 Social Security offices have closed nationally. A Social Security office located on South Third was among that number.
The closings are a result of the Social Security Administration receiving nearly $1 billion less in administrative funding for both the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years than requested by the Obama administration.
"Much of our administrative costs are to fund our employees and facilities across the country, and these cuts make it challenging to acquire and maintain adequate staffing," said Frank Viera, deputy regional communications director for the Social Security Administration. "Last fiscal year, we lost more than 4,000 federal and state employees, including more than 1,600 field office employees. We cannot afford to replace these employees, and we cannot continue to keep as many facilities operating as in prior years."
The consolidation will save the government more than $3.4 million over the course of 10 years, Viera said. Employees at the East Memphis location will continue work at one of the other three offices.
However, the closing affects many low-income Memphians, who lack adequate transportation to travel to other Social Security offices. In addition, some people also lack computers to file information electronically.
"Face-to-face service in a local Social Security office is their lifeline, especially when things go wrong," said Web Phillips, senior legislative representative of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security. "If [someone] was depending on getting a check and the pay date arrived but the check didn't, [they can] immediately go to that Social Security office. It's going to be harder for these folks to get service now that they have to travel a greater distance to get to a local office."
"The only probable avenue that citizens have to express their concerns is to call their local congressman and senators," Phillips continued. "Outside of the post office, Social Security offices are the only government organization that has a physical presence in local communities. As that presence is diminished, service becomes more difficult to get."
Additional assistance can be received at one of three remaining Social Security offices: 1330 Monroe, 225 N. Humphreys, and 3602 Austin Peay. Information can also be accessed online at socialsecurity.gov.