MERIDEN — Ads along the side of city buses this past summer were intended to get Baby Boomers reaching retirement age to sign up for their Social Security benefits online.
Internet sign-ups are cheaper for the Social Security Administration than mailed forms. The local ads are part of a nationwide campaign to move people to electronic sign-ups and statements.
“These savings are significantly important since the agency’s budget has been drastically reduced by Congress in each of the last four years,” said Roberto Medina, a Social Security spokesman. “Applying online is not only more convenient for the individual; it saves the agency millions of dollars.”
While the buses are owned by the state Department of Transportation, bus ads are managed by Trans-Ad Outdoor of Guilford. According to Executive Vice President Alan Watson, the administration signed an $11,920 contract for the production, installation, maintenance and removal of ads on 16 buses from May 1 to July 22.
The contract, obtained through a freedom-of-information request, shows the Social Security Administration agreed to a $2,980-per-month rate for four displays. The Social Security ad costs were discounted 50 percent, according to Watson.
Eight of the buses are in the Northeast Transportation transit district, which includes Meriden, and eight are in the Greater Bridgeport transit district.
Nonprofits and governmental agencies are given a 50 percent discount on ads, Watson said.
“We’re very conscious in terms of how the transit authorities are perceived,” he said.
The ads feature the administration’s website, www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. From that site, recipients can access statements, change their address, start or change direct deposit or get benefit verification letters.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said the ad campaign and online sign-up is good for Social Security and the state.
“The online platform allows seniors to manage their Social Security accounts more easily and whenever they want,” he said. “Also, increased use of the online platform saves taxpayer money by cutting down on administrative costs, like mailers, that can get expensive fast.”
Recipients can still use the mail if they prefer, according to Murphy.
Medina said there’s been a rise in traffic to the Social Security website from the Waterbury and Bridgeport areas.