Electronic newsletter targets older Americans

The Social Security Administration is trying to put older Americans online with a new electronic newsletter that will be sent to them free of charge.

On March 1, SSA will launch a monthly newsletter that may reach as many as 9 million Americans over age 65 who have computers in their homes or access to the Internet through local community centers.

William Halter, SSA's chief operating official, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that the idea was born out of the growing use of the Internet among all age groups in America, especially older Americans who may want information about their pensions or other benefits.

Subscribers will be able to custom-tailor the newsletter to receive information about specific by registering at SSA's World Wide Web site (www.ssa.gov).

Although the idea is not new, SSA is one of the few government agencies that is providing an electronic newsletter to subscribers as part of the push to move government into the Electronic Age in how it operates and communicates with the public. Unlike accessing a government Web site, the newsletter is specifically tailored to what a reader wants, Halter said.

In addition to the monthly newsletter, subscribers will be able to receive news as soon as it is available about specific topics they select.

Although the newsletter does not officially get off the ground until March 1, SSA already has received more than 3,000 requests since it announced the program on Tuesday. The program is not expected to cost the government much. SSA will spend $12,500 for the General Services Administration to e-mail an unlimited number of newsletters, and the agency is expected to employ fewer than 10 workers to produce the newsletter, Halter said.

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