Stop Penalizing Ohioans for Saving for Emergencies

We need to stop penalizing Ohioans who rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for saving for emergencies. 

The SSI program provides financial assistance for elderly, disabled, and blind Americans with very low-incomes and limited resources. Today, it supports more than 8 million people, including more than a million children. 

However, we need to reform the program to bring SSI into the 21st century.

Right now, if people have more than $2,000 in their savings account for individuals or $3,000 for couples, they’re banned from getting any SSI benefits at all. And these numbers haven’t been updates in 30 years.

These arbitrary and out-of-date restrictions prevent Ohioans from saving for emergencies and punish people who want to earn a little extra money to provide for themselves and their families. 

That’s why I’m introducing legislation to update the law and stop punishing Ohioans who rely on this program for working or saving money. 

The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act would update and index the assets people who get SSI can have, raising them up to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for couples.

The bill would also let people earn up to $399 per month from working, because we should be rewarding, not punishing people who want to earn a little additional income to provide for themselves and their families. The benefits elderly and disabled Ohioans receive from these aren’t large – the average current monthly benefit is just $558 for individuals, and the most people can get is $771. That’s less than minimum wage.

Earlier this week, I spoke with Dorothy Gackstetter, a Northwest Ohioan, whose son, Sean, was recently penalized for a life insurance policy that Dorothy and her husband bought for him decades ago. Sean is a recipient of SSI benefits, and since Sean’s life insurance policy gained value, Dorothy was forced to transfer the policy out of Sean’s name, and Sean is still paying a penalty for going over the outdated limit. 

We shouldn’t be punishing Ohioans who do the right thing and save money for emergencies by taking away the money they rely on to live. For Sean and Dorothy and so many other Ohioans, Congress should act now to fix these outdated policies and bring SSI into the 21st century.