WASHINGTON— Today, Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) reintroduced the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act. Over 8 million Americans, all of them over the age of 65 or with significant disabilities, rely on SSI benefits to meet their basic needs. Currently, SSI benefits provide an average income that is below the poverty line. With the program being largely unchanged since its inception in 1972, the SSI Restoration Act makes critical updates to keep beneficiaries out of poverty. The bill modernizes and improves SSI by streamlining and simplifying the claiming process, expanding the resources and income limits, setting the minimum benefit at 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, and eliminating punitive reductions in benefits.
“SSI has long been a last resort and a critical safety net for keeping seniors and those with disabilities from falling into poverty,” said Rep. Grijalva. “It’s ridiculous that for almost fifty years, we have largely failed to make basic updates to ensure the program does what it was intended to do – meet basic needs for blind, disabled, and aged people who will otherwise go without. The last year has been especially harsh on these vulnerable populations, and it is time that Congress step up to make these modest but necessary updates to the program.”
“Supplemental Security Income is an economic lifeline for over eight million seniors, people with disabilities, and families who rely on the program to survive. Unfortunately, the income requirements and benefit amounts are operating as if it were still 1972. The financial requirements are so stiff that a growing number of seniors on SSI are homeless. This is unacceptable and even more disturbing when you consider that more than three out of five older adults who rely on SSI are women,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “As we work to end the COVID-19 pandemic, updating the SSI program is even more essential. The time is now!”
“I’ve met with families across my district who depend on SSI to meet their most basic needs,” said Rep. Slotkin. “For all the benefits this program has provided, it’s been largely unchanged since its inception in 1972, so the hurdles and restrictions to accessing these benefits are often outdated and burdensome. The SSI Restoration Act is a common-sense approach to help families support independent living of individuals with disabilities and to better enable individuals with disabilities to be independent and work without fear of losing benefits.”
The bill is endorsed by over 85 organizations, including AARP, AFL-CIO, AFSCME Retirees, American Association of People with Disabilities, American Society on Aging, Center for Independent Living, Easterseals, Justice in Aging, Medicare Rights Center, Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, National Council on Aging, National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, National Women’s Law Center, Paralyzed Veterans of America, SEIU, Social Security Works, Strengthen Social Security Coalition, The Arc, The Special Needs Alliance, Youth Law Center and more.
“Justice in Aging is proud to support the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act of 2021,” said Justice in Aging Director of Economic Security Tracey Gronniger. “This bill provides desperately needed updates to the SSI program, which millions of extremely low-income older adults and people with disabilities rely on to pay for food, shelter, and other necessities. The SSI Restoration Act fixes rules and restrictions in the SSI program that have not been changed for over 40 years, and seeks to ensure that eligible people in need are better able to access the program and get vital assistance to avoid living in in poverty.
“Social Security Works applauds Representative Grijalva and his cosponsors for the profoundly wise SSI Restoration Act of 2021,” said Social Security Works President Nancy J. Altman. “Thanks to Representative Grijalva’s effective, compassionate leadership, we stand on the brink of history, when the long overdue SSI improvements he champions can finally become law. When that happens, the lives of millions of Americans will be vastly improved.”
Senator Sherrod Brown will introduce companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.
Last month, Members of Congress, advocates, and supporters of SSI benefits gathered in a virtual event making the case for strengthened SSI benefits to be a component of the future economic recovery package. Click here to watch a recording of the event.