Brown, Warren Introduce Bill to Encourage Work, Strengthen Supplemental Security Income for Vulnerable Americans

In 2013, More Than 311,000 Ohioans Received SSI Benefits Totaling More Than $2 Million

WASHINGTON, D.C. –As part of Older Americans Month, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), today introduced legislation that would update eligibility requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI provides benefits to roughly 8.4 million citizens, including elderly Americans, Americans with disabilities, blind Americans, and 1.3 million children.

“For millions of the most vulnerable Americans, Supplemental Security Income isn’t just a safety-net – it’s their only source of income,” said Brown. “Eligibility requirements for these benefits have not kept up with inflation – and too many recipients fear that working for additional income could put their benefits at risk. The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act would update the law to encourage individuals who receive SSI to work toward financial security.”

“SSI helps millions of our most vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities keep their heads above water. But eligibility requirements have not kept up with inflation, squeezing many struggling Americans out of the program,” Warren said. “The SSI Restoration Act will strengthen this critical program for families who depend on it, and I am very pleased to join Senator Brown, Senator Sanders, and Congressman Grijalva in introducing this important bill.”

Administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), SSI provides basic monthly income for older adults and people with disabilities who have limited or no other income or resources. The program is meant to lift up these Americans, but the amount a person is allowed to earn under the program leaves many recipients to live in poverty. For approximately 60 percent of recipients, SSI is their only source of income. The maximum SSI benefit is little more than $700 a month. While the amount of allowable income and resources has risen over the years, the last increase was 26 years ago in 1989. Further, a provision enacted in 1999 disallows SSI beneficiaries from receiving financial, food, and housing support from friends and family, or risk losing their benefits. In order to pull millions out of poverty and encourage work, Brown and Warren introduced the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act, which would increase allowable income and resource levels to their intended values and index them to inflation. 

The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act would:

  • Update and index to inflation the amount of “earned income” a person can make to $364 per month (earned income is money received through work);
  • Update and index to inflation the amount of “general income” a person can make to $112 per month (general income is money received through means other than work);
  • Update and index to inflation the amount of “resources” a person or an eligible couple can have to $10,000 and $15,000, respectively (resources are cash or anything considered a liquid asset); and
  • Repeal the provision – and its subsequent penalty – disallowing financial, food, and housing support from friends and family.

In 2013, SSI benefited more than 311,000 Ohioans, including more than 294,000 Ohioans with disabilities. Ohio received a total of $2,031,274 in 2013.

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