- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides financial support to people with disabilities or older people who lack resources.
- But the program has not been updated since its inception in 1974.
- The new legislation calls for an increase in monthly payments, along with other changes, to lift beneficiaries out of federal poverty levels.
The cost of living is skyrocketing across the country. But there are no benefits for people with disabilities and older people with financial difficulties.
For people with disabilities or those facing factors that affect their ability to work, social security benefits may never go into effect. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is designed to fill in the gaps.
Founded in 1972 under the Nixon administration, the program is designed to provide a basic income that matches the cost of living. Unfortunately, the amount it pays has not changed since its inception, and strict qualification requirements leave many of its beneficiaries in poverty.
Now lawmakers are introducing new legislation in hopes of changing that. The Supplemental Income Recovery Act of 2021, introduced to the Senate in June, seeks to update this much-needed program.
The event is sponsored by US Senator Sherrod Brown , DC, Senators Bernie Sanders, DC, Elizabeth Warren, DC, and many others.
What is SSI?
While its counterpart, Social Security, is gaining more attention, SSI is for those whose full benefits and income don't cover basic living expenses.
SSI provides monthly payments to help people meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. Currently, the program supports nearly 8 million people, making it the largest social security program in the country. SSI acts as the sole source of income for approximately 60% of beneficiaries.
To qualify, it must be:
- Be at least 65 years old, blind, or disabled
- Have limited income
- Have limited resources
- Be a US citizen, US citizen, and reside in the US, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands (with some exceptions)
The financial constraints imposed on the beneficiaries are few. Recipients can currently only have $ 2,000 in resources or things they own, like a savings account, or $ 3,000 matched. Also, any income earned reduces the monthly payment.
Even when you receive the maximum benefit of $ 794 per month, the benefit keeps beneficiaries well below the federal poverty line of $ 12,880 per year per person.
The legislation seeks to update the program
New legislation has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to bring SSI up to modern standards.
The bill aims to increase monthly payments and a social safety net available to Americans using the program. According to Brown 's website backing the bill, lawmakers want to address several key factors.
- Raise the benefit to 100% of the federal poverty level. This means that the monthly payment of $ 794 per person will increase to $ 1,073, an increase of 31%. Lawmakers also want to link payments to inflation to avoid similar cost-of-living inequalities in the future.
- Update the amount of resources that individuals and couples can have. Instead of $ 2,000 in assets, the bill proposes a limit of $ 10,000 per person.
- Change the income rules on how much beneficiaries can earn by encouraging those who can work. The bill proposes to allow income of $ 399 from work sources and up to $ 123 a month from other sources, such as retirement benefits, veterans benefits or social security.
- Stop punishing couples. Married couples currently receive a lower total support amount with a maximum monthly payment of $ 1,157. The bill will simply double the monthly amount for two people, even if they live together.
- This will eliminate fines for people receiving in-kind support, such as housing or outside food assistance. Even if beneficiaries stay with their families or benefit from a food bank or other charity program, their benefits will remain the same.
SSI is paid out of the general tax fund, not payroll taxes, so this bill will not affect current Social Security benefits.
What does this mean to you
If you are disabled, blind, or over 65 with limited income, you can get SSI. The National Council on Aging offers a free, anonymous tool on Benefitscheckup.org to find programs that can help you increase your monthly income if you are experiencing financial difficulties and how to apply.
How This Bill Can Help
These changes can dramatically improve the quality of life for those who qualify, says Ramsey Alvin , president and CEO of the National Council on Aging, Get Meds Info.
"Since its inception, the program has really provided minimal assistance," says Alvin. 'The program is structured in a way that does not allow people to work in the way they can for their circumstances, or to not get help from friends and family who are often important. This reinforces this state of poverty. "
Although the current maximum benefit amount is $ 794, Alvin says, on average, beneficiaries receive an average of $ 586 a month. The program makes a distinction between earned and unearned income. Due to strict restrictions on earned income, such as money from Social Security benefits, SSI benefits are often canceled due to very modest cash flow.
And while the program is aimed at people with disabilities, Alvin says minorities and women are also disproportionately represented among SSI recipients.
'Given the circumstances of the added disadvantage that women face throughout their lives, such as wage inequality, occupational segregation or interruptions in childcare, they come into old age with much less savings and lower wages at throughout their lives, ”says Alvin.
Alvin notes that older people often have to access various programs, including SSI, to live sustainably, and many depend on family members for shelter and food.
She adds that fixed-income seniors are also deprived of about $ 7,000 in aid in the form of taxes on food, medicine, transportation, and property taxes due to their ignorance of the programs available and how to use them.