WASHINGTON – Social Security will run at a deficit this year and keep on running in the red until its trust funds are drained by about 2037, congressional budget experts said Wednesday.

The national retirement program has been suffering from the effects of the struggling economy for several years. It first went into deficit last year, but had been projected to post surpluses for a few more years before permanently slipping into the red in 2016.

This year alone, Social Security will pay out $45 billion more in retirement, disability and survivors’ benefits than it collects in payroll taxes, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said. That figure nearly triples — to $130 billion — when the new one-year cut in payroll taxes is included, although Congress has promised to replenish any lost revenue from the tax cut.

More than 54 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, averaging $1,076 per month, and will continue to do so for many years.

In the short term, Social Security is suffering from the weak economy that has payroll taxes lagging and applications for benefits rising. In the long term, Social Security will be strained by the growing number of retiring baby boomers.

The projected deficits add a sense of urgency to efforts to improve Social Security’s finances. For much of the past 30 years, the program has run big surpluses, which the government has borrowed to spend on other programs.

“So long as Social Security was running surpluses, policymakers could put off the need to fix the program,” said Andrew Biggs, a former deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration who is now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

President Obama said in his State of the Union address Tuesday that he wanted “a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.”

But the president has not embraced recommendations from a debt commission he appointed last year, including one that would gradually increase the full retirement age, from 67 to 69, over the next 65 years.

But Obama did lay down some markers for making Social Security closer to solvent.

“We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities, without slashing benefits for future generations and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market,” Obama said.

The program has been supported by a 6.2 percent payroll tax, paid by both workers and employers. In December, Congress passed a one-year tax cut for workers, to 4.2 percent. The lost revenue is to be repaid to Social Security from general revenue funds, meaning it will add to the growing national debt.

Social Security has built up a $2.5 trillion surplus since the retirement program was last overhauled in the 1980s. Benefits will be safe until that money runs out. That is projected to happen in 2037, unless Congress acts in the meantime. At that point, Social Security would collect enough in payroll taxes to pay out about 78 percent of benefits, according to the Social Security Administration.

The $2.5 trillion surplus, however, has been borrowed over the years by the government.

Social Security supporters are adamant that the program will be repaid, just as the U.S. government repays others who invest in U.S. Treasury bonds.

“It’s an IOU that is backed by Treasury bonds and the faith and credit of the United States government,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. “It is the same faith and credit that enables us to borrow from rich people and from China and from other countries. As you well know, in the history of this country, the United States has never defaulted on one penny owed to a creditor.”