WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced legislation that would strengthen Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for the most vulnerable Americans, including elderly, disabled, and blind Americans, and 1.3 million children. SSI provides need-based support to more than eight million of our country’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. At present, however, the amount of income a person is allowed to earn and still be eligible for SSI benefits has not kept up with inflation. Adjusted for inflation, the amount an SSI beneficiary can earn would be 5.5 times greater than its current amount. In order to pull millions out of poverty and encourage work, the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act would increase allowable income and resource levels to their intended values and index them to inflation.
“Millions of vulnerable Americans who struggle just to get by depend on Supplemental Security Income to help take care of their families,” Brown said. “But inflation has significantly decreased the ability to qualify for SSI benefits, hurting seniors, the disabled and blind, and more than one million children. Senator Warren and I introduced the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act to strengthen the SSI program and protect our citizens who need this help the most.”
“SSI is a critical program that helps millions of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens keep their heads above water,” Warren said. “I’m very pleased to join Senator Brown to introduce the SSI Restoration Act, which will help strengthen SSI for families who rely on these essential benefits.”
Congress created the SSI program in 1972 as a replacement for a variety of grant programs intended to assist senior citizens, the disabled, and the blind. For about 60 percent of recipients, SSI provides their only source of income. But the maximum SSI benefit is a little more than $700 a month. And while the amount of allowable income and resources has risen over the years, the last increase was 25 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. As a result, the limitations of the SSI program have failed to encourage recipients to work or save money, and have left many below the poverty line.
That is why the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act would:
- Update and index to inflation the amount of “earned income” a person can make to $357 per month (earned income is money received through work);
- Update and index to inflation the amount of “general income” a person can make to $110 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 is cash or anything considered a liquid asset);
- Repeal the provision—and its subsequent penalty—disallowing financial, food, and housing support from friends and family; and
- Help the Social Security Administration (SSA) administer SSI in order to streamline the claims process and eliminate mistakes.