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2021 Federal Legislation News

S 2065 – Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2021

Federal Bill S 2065 supports the Dignity Alliance MA Goal 3 – Home and Community-Based Supports and Services improvement and expansion of opportunities. DAM has endorsed this legislation.

How Disabled Americans Are Pushing to Overhaul a Key Benefits Program

Many older, blind and disabled Americans receive benefits from the Supplemental Security Income program. But it has been essentially unchanged since 1972, and its rules mean that many recipients must remain in poverty.

When Congress created Supplemental Security Income in 1972, it left no question about its intentions. The program, lawmakers wrote, was “designed to provide a positive assurance that the nation’s aged, blind and disabled people would no longer have to subsist on below-poverty-level incomes.”

Today, it helps ensure the opposite.

The maximum annual benefit is $9,528, three-quarters of the federal poverty level. Payments decrease if recipients have more than $85 a month in outside income, and are revoked if they exceed $2,000 in savings. There are penalties for accepting groceries or even shelter from loved ones. The result is that it is structurally difficult to be on S.S.I. and not live in poverty.

The shift happened over nearly five decades in which Congress made no major changes to the program, which is run by the Social Security Administration and serves about eight million Americans. The outside income limits, for instance, have never been updated for inflation.

Now, as Democrats hash out the details of trillions of dollars in spending that they hope to pass through budget reconciliation with no need for Republican support, S.S.I. recipients and advocates see a rare opportunity to overhaul the program.

Advocates want the bill included in the reconciliation bill and which the Social Security Chief Actuary estimates would cost $46 billion in 2022 and a total of $510 billion over the next decade. Among other things, it would increase S.S.I. payments to the federal poverty level and index them to inflation; allow more than $500 per month in outside income with no penalty; raise the asset limit to $10,000; and remove penalties for “in-kind support,” like a friend offering shelter.