Testifying before a key House subcommittee February 15, a Washington, D.C.-area restaurateur called for Congress to “help her help current employees, and reach out to future employees” by eliminating the punitive limit government puts on older Americans who want to work while also earning Social Security benefits.

“As a restaurateur who owns an ethnic restaurant, I rely upon our older generation?seasoned individuals?to preserve a strong element of culture in our cuisine. The earnings limit issue has long been a frustration of mine because I cannot find older individuals who are willing to work in my establishment and are willing to give up benefits in order to do so,” said National Restaurant Association member Zed Wondemu. Ms. Wondemu, who owns and operates Zed’s Ethiopian Cuisine in Georgetown, testified before the House of Representatives’ Social Security Subcommittee.

“I constantly run into problems when hiring older individuals because they are afraid of losing their Social Security benefits. I sincerely hope that you will eliminate the earnings test, and allow more older Americans to work as freely as they want to,” she added.

Currently, people lose a third of their benefits for every dollar they earn over $17,000. The National Restaurant Association is strongly backing a proposal sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson, (R-TX), which would allow individuals ages 65-70 to work without being penalized.

“Government is punishing people who want to be productive and social in their golden years by taking away their benefits it they work,” said Steven C. Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association. “Repealing the earnings limit is a win-win situation, as it helps many individuals who want to remain engaged in society, and many employers who would benefit from their experience.”

“When people think of restaurant employees, they typically think of younger adults. But as the nation’s largest private sector employer, the restaurant industry also employs tens of thousands of older Americans. With the labor shortage facing this country, now is not the time to discourage people who want to work from working. We applaud the House Ways and Means Committee and the Republican leadership for recognizing the, and look forward to working with them to pass Rep. Johnson’s bill to repeal this antiquated law.”