$1073 for Monthly SSI Benefits | SSI Restoration Act 2021

In this update, we will be discussing the proposed raise in SSI monthly benefits to $1073, among other provisions, as part of the reintroduced SSI Restoration Act of 2021. According to CNBC, Federal benefits for aged, blind and disabled Americans have not been updated in years. Now, some lawmakers and advocates are pushing for changes to the Supplemental Security Income program (otherwise known as SSI) to be part of the $3.5 trillion legislation being promoted in Congress. However, it is still not completely clear whether or not this will actually pan out.

Proposed SSI reforms were not included in an initial budget proposal by House Democrats. Yet, this week, a Senate Finance subcommittee held the first ever hearing on the SSI program since 1998, a sign that Senate leadership, particularly Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown from Ohio, and Ron Wyden from Oregon, plan to keep fighting for it. The hearing was led by Brown, who in June reintroduced the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act. However, hopes to receive sweeping SSI reform included in the package could be difficult as lawmakers work to whittle the total cost of the Build Back Better package down from a massive cost of $3.5 trillion. However, there could be room for more incremental changes to the program, which largely haven’t been perturbed since 1972.

Brown recently said he plans to push for including as much of the proposed SSI reforms as possible. At a bare minimum, that would include raising the limits on assets beneficiaries are eligible to receive. The SSI Restoration Act would also work to refresh the program’s rules, many of which have been in effect for years and are outdated. SSI provides monthly benefits checks to Americans who have little to no income, including many of whom that are aged, blind or disabled. This money aims to support these people with basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. And about 8 million people, including adults, children with disabilities, and seniors receive SSI benefits.

In terms of numbers, according to the Social Security Administration, the average monthly SSI payment is around $586, whereas the maximum benefit is $794 per month, which is only 75% of the federal poverty level. Furthermore, there are strict asset limits, whereby a single beneficiary may only have up to $2,000 in savings. A rule that has not changed since 1989. Beneficiaries also face strict income limits. If they work, they can only keep up to $65 of their earnings each month. Earnings above that threshold reduce benefits by $1 for every $2 in income. And while SSI beneficiaries can collect other benefits, including Social Security, they may only keep $20 of it per month. If the benefits exceed that amount, their SSI benefits are reduced dollar for dollar.

According to Senator Brown, SSI benefits were dubbed the “forgotten safety net”, which he coined during a House Ways and Means hearing this week. The SSI Restoration Act would increase SSI benefits by 31%, thereby raising them up to the federal poverty level. And it would also index those benefits to inflation. The proposal would furthermore increase the asset caps to $10,000 per individual and $20,000 per couple, up from $2,000 and $3,000, respectively. Additionally, beneficiaries would be allowed to earn up to $399 through work, and also take in up to $123 per month through other sources like Social Security or veterans benefits. An analysis from the Urban Institute found that the results from these proposed changes would help lift about 3.3 million people out of poverty, and cut the poverty rate among SSI recipients by more than half. However, those changes would also unfortunately come with some higher costs. The Social Security Administration has estimated the proposal would increase SSI payments by about $510 billion from 2022 to 2030. And that could in turn, deter lawmakers from including the entire proposal as they work to reduce the total cost of this expensive legislation.

Now although not everyone is optimistic that SSI will make it into the final draft of the legislation, there is hope that Democratic Senators can be somewhat successful in convincing lawmakers to implement low cost provisions that will not amount to overspending on the upcoming $3.5 trillion spending bill, which currently remains under heavy negotiations.

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