Hopes are high that Congress will act to revise asset restrictions for Supplemental Security Income recipients for the first time in more than 30 years. Disability advocates are urging Congress to include the SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act in a comprehensive legislative package due before the end of the year.
SSI beneficiaries are currently limited to having no more than $2,000 in assets at any given moment to continue receiving monthly payments. Under regulations that haven’t changed since the 1980s, married couples are limited to $3,000.
The maximum SSI benefit is currently $841 a month. This is only three-fourths of the federal poverty level. 40% of beneficiaries live in poverty even with their benefits. In addition, getting married can also affect your benefits, including Medicaid.
I am one of the millions of Americans who receive SSI. I live off $871 a month. It is impossible to cover my expenses for less than $900 a month. I can’t afford meals at restaurants, cable TV, and trips to the movies. I have to be frugal at the grocery store as well. If I didn’t have help from my friend, I wouldn’t be able to afford toiletries such as shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste.
Many people who receive SSI can’t find affordable housing either. 55-year-old Margret Davis receives SSI, yet she remains homeless. Davis estimates that she receives roughly $600 per month from the program. According to Zumper, a website that has tracked rental prices since 2014, the average apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Davis lives, now rents for $1,500 per month. Ten years ago, the average was 70% less than it is today.
Making matters worse, waiting lists for affordable housing are often years long. According to a CBPP analysis of HUD data, only two of the 50 largest housing agencies had average wait times of less than a year for families who have made it off the waiting list; the longest have to wait times of up to eight years. Families waiting for vouchers in the United States have been on waitlists for an average of more than 2.5 years.
Accessible housing is also challenging to find. Apartment List conducted a study in February 2020 utilizing information from the American Community Survey and the American Housing Survey. According to the report, just 9% of households with a disabled family member reside in an accessible home. Even though more than 15% of households in the US include a physically disabled member, just 6% of homes are accessible.
Those who receive SSI should be able to purchase necessities like food and toiletries. We should be able to save up so we can afford home repairs and gifts for the holidays. Disabled people should not be forced to rely on food banks, donations, and SNAP benefits to survive. Disability benefits should be increased so that people can live.
Altiraifi, Azza. “A Deadly Poverty Trap: Asset Limits in the Time of the Coronavirus.” Center for American Progress, Center for American Progress, 7 Apr. 2020, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/disability/news/2020/04/07/482736/deadly-poverty-trap-asset-limits-time-coronavirus/.
Acosta, Sonya, and Erik Gartland. “Families Wait Years for Housing Vouchers Due to Inadequate Funding.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 22 July 2021, https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/families-wait-years-for-housing-vouchers-due-to-inadequate-funding.
Clasen-Kelly, Fred. “High Rents Outpace Federal Disability Payments, Leaving Many Homeless.” NPR, NPR, 15 Sept. 2022, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/09/15/1121848289/social-security-disability-inflation-poverty.
Diament, Michelle. “Congress Faces Pressure to Raise SSI Asset Limits.” Disability Scoop, Disability Scoop, 11 Nov. 2022, https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2022/11/11/congress-faces-pressure-to-raise-ssi-asset-limits/30132/.
Laurence, Bethany K. “Social Security and SSI Disability and Benefit Amounts for 2022.” Nolo, Nolo Press , 1 July 2022, https://www.nolo.com/legal-updates/social-security-and-ssi-disability-and-benefit-amounts-for-2022.html.
Star, Eryn. “Marriage Equality Is Still Not a Reality: Disabled People and the Right to Marry.” Advocacy Monitor, National Council on Independent Living, 14 Nov. 2019, advocacymonitor.com/marriage-equality-is-still-not-a-reality-disabled-people-and-the-right-to-marry/.
Vallas, Rebecca, et al. “Congress Should Give SSI Asset Limits a 21st Century Upgrade.” The Hill, Nexstar Media Group, 22 June 2022, https://thehill.com/opinion/finance/3532554-congress-should-give-ssi-asset-limits-a-21st-century-upgrade/.
Warnock, Rob. “How Accessible Is the Housing Market?” Apartment List , Apartment List, 19 February, 2020, http://www.apartmentlist.com/research/how-accessible-is-the-housing-market.