Trapped In Poverty: America’s Disability Benefits Crisis

CW: Poverty

About 70 million Americans’ Social Security benefits will rise by 8.7% in 2023 as a result of the country’s struggle with record-high inflation. This is the largest increase since 1981 since it is based on the 40-year highs in inflation in the United States. According to the Social Security Administration, average monthly payments will rise by more than $140 in 2023.

In September, prices increased 8.2% year over year, exceeding predictions of an 8.1% rise. Prices increased by 0.4% over the previous month, which was double the predicted increase of 0.2%.

With increases in practically every category driving the 0.7% increase in supermarket prices last month, the cost of food has now increased by 13% in the past year. Some of the largest price increases in September were seen in the produce section. The price of lettuce increased by 6.8%, and the price of apples increased by 5%. Prices for potatoes increased by 3.5%.

Rent in major cities has decreased in recent months. Salt Lake City had the largest percentage of price reductions on listed apartment rental listings in September at 14.2%, or around 9 percentage points more than in September 2021. Among the top five cities with the highest rate of price reductions were Miami, FL, Seattle, WA Pittsburgh, PA, and Baltimore, MD.

However, finding affordable housing is especially challenging if you receive disability benefits. Finding an affordable apartment has proven to be difficult for Margaret Davis. The 55-year-old receives a monthly payment from the federal and state governments of about $750. She is attempting to save for a place to live by living on $50 in cash and $150 in SNAP benefits per month.

Davis receives SSI benefits, but she is still without a home. According to Davis, she receives about $600 per month from the program. However, the average apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Davis lives, is now renting for $1,500 per month, almost 70% more than it did nearly ten years ago, according to Zumper, which has been monitoring rental prices since 2014.

Millions of Americans need more than an annual raise. Essentials like food and housing shouldn’t be difficult for people to afford. Nobody should have to live in abject poverty. Social Security benefits must offer a living income for those in our country who need them the most.


Brasher, Philip. “Grocery Prices up Again in September, Driving Another Gain in CPI.” AgriPulse, Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc., 13 Oct. 2022,

Clasen-Kelly, Fred. “High Rents Outpace Federal Disability Payments, Leaving Many Homeless.” NPR, NPR, 15 Sept. 2022,

Muller, Amy. “Are Rent Prices Cooling? New Study Shows Rent Price Cuts Are on the Rise.” Apartment Advisor , Apartment Advisor , 13 Oct. 2022,

Picchi, Aimee. “Social Security Announces Biggest Benefit Hike since 1981. Here’s When You’ll Get It.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 13 Oct. 2022,

1 comment

  1. Let’s not forget that the $2000 resource limit for SSI – and by extension Medicaid in most states – has not changed since 1989 and is NOT indexed to inflation! The effective amount of money people can have and retain their critical benefits has decreased, and continues to do so; this is truly an ever-worsening poverty trap. It is especially apparent given the recent bout of high inflation.

    This is another angle of the disability benefits crisis that must be resolved, and soon. We need the SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act ASAP, but even this is only a first step.

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