After Decades of Neglect, It’s Time to Rebuild SSI

By Kathleen Romig: For Complete Post, Click Here…

As policymakers craft economic recovery legislation later this year, they should include measures to expand and simplify the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which provides monthly benefits to people who are disabled or elderly and have little income and few assets. Members of the House and Senate introduced an updated version of the SSI Restoration Act this month with important SSI improvements, and President Biden proposed similar changes during his campaign. Both plans are consistent with our recent recommendations to improve SSI.

SSI benefits are critical for people who need them, but the program is woefully out of date. The maximum SSI benefit is only three-fourths of the poverty line, and 4 in 10 recipients live in poverty. The program’s meager income and asset limits discourage savings and work. SSI also excludes most immigrants and residents of U.S. territories, most of whom are people of color. And its complicated rules are inefficient to administer and intrusive to recipients. SSI benefits make up only 5 percent of the payments made by Social Security Administration, but the program requires 35 percent of the agency’s administrative budget.

Our recommendations for improving SSI are:

  • Update SSI’s asset limits and exclude retirement savings.
  • Update SSI’s income disregards
  • Treat Social Security benefits as earned income.
  • Raise SSI benefits at least to the poverty level.
  • Eliminate SSI’s “in-kind support” rules.
  • Improve SSI’s treatment of immigrants.
  • Extend SSI to Puerto Rico and the other territories.
  • Eliminate SSI’s marriage penalties

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