Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio wants to modernize the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which provides financial support to roughly 8 million elderly, blind people, and disabled individuals.
Current SSI Policy Will Be Updated
In a recently published article in Disability Scoop, Brown argued last week during a subcommittee hearing that the program’s eligibility criteria have not been changed in decades in many instances, not even for inflation. He said, “They force millions of disabled and older Americans to live well below the poverty line and punish them for any of their own efforts to build a little financial security … It sends a pretty absurd message … SSI’s outdated rules make it impossible for beneficiaries to live with dignity.”
According to a recent Urban Institute study, changes under Brown’s plan would raise 3.3 million people out of poverty. He stated that AARP, the AFL-CIO, and the National Women’s Law Center have all supported his measure and that he is working on it with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden of Oregon.
He says he’s working on getting some of his ideas into the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that Congress will debate in the coming weeks, according to a published article in CNBC News.
New Policies in the Proposed Bill
Brown told reporters that his plan will adjust for inflation by updating asset restrictions and income regulations. Instead of the existing $2,000 asset limit for an individual and $3,000 limit for a married pair, he recommends increasing the asset limit to $10,000 for an individual and $20,000 for a married couple. His plan also eliminates a benefit reduction that occurs currently when two SSI recipients marry, allowing individuals to earn up to $400 per month from employment without impacting benefits.
Meanwhile, Stephen Evangelista, acting deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy at the Social Security Administration, the federal government plans to pay $56 billion in SSI payments this year. It is a “critical lifeline” that allows recipients to fulfill their basic requirements of food, clothes, and shelter, according to him.
Furthermore, Evangelista, added that the maximum federal monthly benefit amount in 2021 is $794 for individuals (about 75 percent of the federal poverty level) and $1,191 for couples who are both qualified for the program.