Yesterday, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), with co-sponsors Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Robert Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the SSI Restoration Act of 2019 in the Senate. Last month we reported that Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) introduced the bill in the House. Learn more in our SSI Restoration Act Policy Issue Brief.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides modest financial assistance for people who are unable to work enough to meet their basic needs. A 70-year-old woman who worked in “off the books” domestic jobs her whole life, or a younger person with a disability that makes it impossible to work enough hours to pay for rent, food, and other necessities are both examples of people who would qualify for SSI. While SSI is meant to help people in great need, many of the SSI program rules haven’t been updated in more than 40 years, and can make people’s financial problems even worse. If a person has even $1 more in their bank account than the $2,000 resource limit, their application will be denied or current benefits taken away entirely.
The SSI Restoration Act of 2019
This legislation would modernize SSI rules and requirements that haven’t been changed for decades. In addition to raising the $2,000 resource limit, for example, the Act would increase the amount of income a person could keep from sources like Social Security. Currently, people receiving SSI are not allowed to keep more than $20 of income they receive from Social Security. This means older adults receiving SSI and Social Security (over half of all older SSI recipients) would be able to use more of their limited Social Security income to supplement their SSI benefit. The bill would also make improvements, such as removing a marriage penalty, so that couples could receive their full SSI benefit rather than a reduced amount. The bill would also eliminate benefit reductions that occur when people are able to live with others to save money.
Improvements such as these are important to fulfilling SSI’s goal of helping those most in need who would not otherwise have enough income to get by. We support this legislation because it will ensure that, rather than keeping people out of the program because of outdated restrictions, we will be able to provide support to those who need it.