Legislators introduced a bill May 19 that aims to increase the amount of income and other resources that individuals can receive while maintaining eligibility for Supplemental Security Income.
“For millions of the most vulnerable Americans, Supplemental Security Income isn’t just a safety-net – it’s their only source of income,” Sen. Sharrod Brown said in a news release. “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.”
The SSI program, created in 1972, provides monthly income to about 8.4 million seniors and people with disabilities.
To retain eligibility, beneficiaries may not receive more than $65 a month in earned income (income generated from work) and $20 in unearned income (income generated from certain other sources), without having their benefits reduced. Individuals also can not have more than $2,000 saved up in emergency savings, or $3,000 for couples, according to a fact sheet from the advocacy group Justice and Aging.
These limits have not been raised since 1989. Nor are they indexed for inflation.
In 1999, Congress also imposed the In-Kind Support and Maintenance Rule, which penalizes beneficiaries who receive certain benefits, such as food and shelter, from friends and family.
Under the SSI Restoration Act, recipients would be able to earn $364 per month in earned income and $112 in general income. In addition, the emergency savings limit would be raised to $10,000 for individuals, or $15,000 for eligible couples. Moving forward, all these limitations would be indexed for inflation.
The In-Kind Support and Maintenance Rule would also be abolished.
Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Senate version of bill, while Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced a version in the House.
“The SSI Restoration Act will bring welcome relief to the millions of Americans with disabilities and seniors who look to SSI as a lifeline that protects against extreme poverty…,” said Marty Ford, senior executive officer of public policy with the Arc, in a blog post. “The SSI Restoration Act will bring these standards up to date to better reflect the program’s original intent and strengthen SSI for extremely low income people with disabilities and seniors.”
Rep. Grijalva first introduced the bill in 2013. A Senate version of the bill was first introduced last session.