On Tuesday, the SSI Restoration Act was reintroduced in the Senate by 18 Senators, led by Senators Brown, Warren, and Sanders. The Senate reintroduction of the bill follows last week’s introduction of companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Reps. Grijalva, Schakowsky, Slotkin, and Bowman, and joined by dozens of Democratic members of Congress. The bill’s reintroduction comes as momentum is growing on Capitol Hill for including several of the bill’s key provisions in upcoming recovery legislation, to make long-overdue updates to SSI.
Following the bill’s reintroduction, TCF Senior Fellow and leading SSI expert Rebecca Vallas released the following statement:
“A core component of the nation’s Social Security system, SSI is nothing short of a lifeline for nearly eight million of the nation’s poorest seniors and disabled people, including more than one million disabled children. But because this critical program has been left to wither on the vine for over 30 years after shameful federal neglect, outdated program rules now consign older and disabled beneficiaries to deep and enduring poverty.
“SSI’s meager monthly benefits top out at $794 per month—just three-quarters of the federal poverty line, and not enough to rent a one-bedroom apartment in any state in the U.S., even if you spent 100 percent of monthly benefits on rent. Meanwhile, the program’s shamefully outdated asset limits—which haven’t been changed since 1989—penalize savings and prevent beneficiaries from having even a few thousand dollars in the bank for emergencies. Income rules that have never been adjusted for inflation since the SSI program was signed into law nearly 50 years ago further entrench poverty among seniors and disabled people. And the program’s rigid marriage penalties put marriage equality out of reach for millions of SSI beneficiaries.
“The SSI Restoration Act would finally right these wrongs and ensure our nation lives up to President Biden’s campaign pledge that seniors and disabled people should never have to live in poverty in America. Thanks to the tireless leadership of Senators Brown, Warren, and Sanders, and Reps. Grijalva, Schakowsky, Slotkin, and Bowman, we now have an historic opportunity to bring this vital component of the American safety net into the 21st century, as federal policymakers work to ‘build back better’ in the wake of COVID-19. And not a moment too soon, as COVID ‘long-haulers’—many of whom are so-called ‘essential workers’ exposed to the virus on the job—begin to turn to SSI for essential income support.
“As the Biden–Harris administration works with Congress to chart a course to economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic, we must not yet again leave behind this critical program and its beneficiaries.”