Biden Urged To Back Broad Changes To SSI
Dozens of federal lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to support increasing Supplemental Security Income benefits, growing the asset limit, doing away with the marriage penalty and making other changes to the program.
Members of Congress are asking President Joe Biden to include “desperately needed improvements” to SSI in his American Families Plan, which is expected to be unveiled later this month.
“People with disabilities and older adults receiving SSI represent some of the most marginalized members of our society. History will not forgive us if we fail to address their needs in the recovery effort,” wrote U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., and Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., along with 47 other members of the Senate and House of Representatives in a letter to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
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SSI benefits currently go to about 8 million Americans, many of whom have disabilities. Individuals receive a maximum federal payment of $794 per month from the program while couples can see up to $1,191 per month, though some states add to those figures. In order to remain eligible, individual beneficiaries can have no more than $2,000 to their names and couples are limited to $3,000 in assets at any given time.
The lawmakers want to see SSI benefits rise to “at least 100% of the federal poverty line.” They also want the asset limit to increase for the first time since 1984 and for that cap to be tied to inflation.
“Because this limit is not indexed to inflation, it grows steadily more draconian each year,” they wrote. “Lifting this asset cap is long overdue.”
In addition, the letter says that SSI should increase the amount of money that beneficiaries can earn before their benefits are reduced. And, the lawmakers want rules lowering benefits for those who marry or if individuals accept food or shelter from friends or family to be eliminated.
Biden backed many of these changes during his campaign for the presidency, the lawmakers note. Now they want the president to follow through as he prepares to detail his American Families Plan. The proposal is expected to focus on paid family leave, child care and other domestic issues and serves as the second part to the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan that Biden has been pushing in recent weeks.
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