SSI beneficiaries are near federal poverty level. This change may help
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About 7.7 million AmericansYou can count on receiving monthly checks from the government through programs for seniors and people with disabilities who are low-income.
As SSI is also known, it provided an average monthly benefit of $569 as of November.
One big change — updating the program’s rules around income from work — could help improve those beneficiaries’ standard of living, according to a report from the Urban Institute.
Maximum SSI benefits in 2022 will reach $841 per monthly, an increase from the $794 that was available in 2021.
According to Urban Institute, almost all SSI recipients are below 150% of federal poverty levels. This is $1,147 per monthly for a single family.
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Many people receiving SSI benefits cannot work. The research shows that only a very small number of people who receive these government checks work at any one time.
When they work, there are strict regulations about how much they may make.
Unearned income can be as high as $20 per beneficiary, while their first $65 earnings will not affect the rules. Beyond that, beneficiaries will lose 50 cents per dollar in SSI benefits.
That sounds so low? It is not. These thresholds were established by Congress in 1972.
It was uncommon at the time to adjust inflation-indexed benefits. These annual changes had only just begun to affect Social Security Disability and Retirement Benefits.
The Urban Institute says that SSI’s income thresholds could have grown with inflation since the beginning to be five times higher today.
A $128 income threshold is proposed, which would increase from $20. The earned income threshold for a month would increase to $416, instead of $65.
The report estimates that moving the $65 earned income threshold up to the fully-indexed level would run the government $1.1 million per year. To provide SSI benefits in 2019, the government spent $56billion.
Some SSI beneficiaries may also be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. But, they are still subject to the SSI rules.
Jack Smalligan (senior policy fellow, Urban Institute) stated that any changes in the income rules will be directed at people trying to work, and very poor.
This could allow SSI recipients who are able to work to keep their benefits, and increase their income beyond the poverty line.
Smalligan explained that this felt “like a win-win situation for both the economy as well as the individual.”
Researchers suggest that there is a possibility of part-time work. Smalligan explained that the research isn’t advocating for beneficiaries to work too hard to quit the program.
Smalligan stated that there were other reforms which could be made to the SSI program, improving the quality of the lives of beneficiaries.
The limit includes $2,000 in assets that an individual can own. This amount was not updated in 1989. Married couples are limited to $3,000.
It Supplemental Security Income Restoration ActThe legislation, introduced last year by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), proposed modifications to the asset and income restrictions. This bill sought to raise the monthly benefits to 100% of federal poverty levels and index them to inflation.
Despite attempts by lawmakers to amend the SSI program to make it more appealing in Democrats’ Build Back better package earlier this year for consideration, legislation to do so has stalled.