GREAT NEWS for Social Security & SSI Benefiaries | SSI Restoration Act of 2021 Update

The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act, a bill which had its first iteration as early as 2013, had a long list of supporters, but never managed to secure passage. Today, this bill has been modernized into what we now call, the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2021. Now unlike many of the provisions of the ‘Build Back Better’ Reconciliation Bill, we now have a true cost estimate for this bill, because although supporters had been hoping to see it included in the larger bill’s provisions, it is for the present moment, a stand-alone bill. This legislation would increase the benefits provided in SSI, and the numbers of individuals eligible for them, in a number of ways.

The most substantial part of the bill would increase the basic benefit amount up to 100% of the single-person poverty rate, and provide that benefit on a per-person basis (doubled for eligible couples), at a cost of $350 billion for 10 years. This is a “true” cost without any tricks of phase-ins or phase-outs, as are being used for many of the Reconciliation Bill provisions. In addition, this bill would increase the general income exclusion from $20 to $128 per month, and the earned income exclusion from $65 to $416 per month, and further increase these limits annually based on the CPI-E at a cost of $60 billion over 10 years. It would also increase the asset limit to $10,000 per individual, doubled for couples, likewise increased with inflation, at a 10 year cost of $8 billion.

Next, it would eliminate the consideration of in-kind support such as food and housing, in determining eligibility and benefits, at a 10 year cost of 31 billion; and exempt qualified retirement savings from being counted as “income” for purposes of eligibility, with a negligible effect over the next 10 years, though with no comments on future effects as more people with IRAs and 401(k)s reach retirement age. In summary, we’re looking at a set of changes that will add up to a total of $510 billion in cost increases over 10 years. Split by age group, 13% of the cost would go towards increases in children’s benefits, 46% towards increases in working-age adult benefits, and 41% toward increases in benefits for the elderly.

With these new benefits and income limits, the point at which benefits would phase out entirely would shift from $19,836 of earned income, for a single retiree, all the way up to $30,744. The income exclusion amounts are the same for unmarried individuals and for couples, so the threshold for couples is not double, but $56,496 due to the higher base benefit. For those eligible for both SSI and Social Security, their total combined benefit could increase from today’s current “extra $20” to an extra $128 per month. For some advocates, even this bill doesn’t go far enough. Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed an increase not only to 100% of the poverty rate, but up to 125%.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has called for Social Security to be treated as “earned income”, so that each dollar of Social Security decreases SSI by only 50 cents; this group has also called for immigrants to be eligible for SSI without needing to become US citizens, and for SSI to be provided to US territories on the same basis as the 50 states. As of now, this bill has not been passed, but newer bills such as the Social Security 2100 Act have been pushed in recent weeks by leaders such as Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez. Hopefully we can garner enough support from influential leaders in the Senate, once big ticket items like the Reconciliation bill have been passed, and lawmakers can re-align their efforts on our seniors, who need the most help.

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