Starting in January, the monthly Social Security benefits received by millions of senior citizens and disabled people will increase. The 8.7% rise in payments is the largest in decades, and it is intended to help mitigate the increasing inflation that would otherwise reduce recipients’ purchasing power. According to the Social Security Administration, monthly Social Security benefits will increase by more than $140 on average in January.
Two Ohio senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman have joined forces to draft legislation to alter the criteria for how much money beneficiaries can set aside under the Supplemental Security Income program. Congress established SSI in 1972. The SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act, a measure from the senators, was presented in May. Brown and Portman’s initiative aims to modernize asset limits, allowing beneficiaries to save more money in case of an emergency without jeopardizing their benefits. These limits haven’t been updated since 1989.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics index, inflation increased 7.1% year on year in November, down from 7.7% in October. Unfortunately, the cost of groceries rose. Food became 10.6% more expensive in the year through November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Tuesday.
Flour prices increased 24.9%, bread prices increased 15.7%, milk prices increased 14.7%, and coffee prices increased 14.6%. Prices for produce rose by 9.7%, and chicken rose by 12%. Prices for lettuce alone went up by 8.9%. Some meat products, however, decreased. Pork roasts, steaks, and ribs fell by 5.1%, and bacon by 1.1%.
Millions of Americans are currently struggling with food insecurity. According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, food insecurity among US households with children increased from 13.6% in 2019 to 14.8% in 2020, with the increase being more significant among communities of color. For example, compared to the overall population, low-income African Americans living in food desert neighborhoods saw larger increases in food insecurity between 2018 and 2020, increasing from 20.7% to 36.9%.
Food deserts are low-income neighborhoods with limited access to nutritious foods, including produce. According to a 2015 report, low-income individuals continue to consume fruits and vegetables at lower-than-recommended levels, but rates of diet-related chronic disease remain high.
Food insecurity is more prevalent among disabled people. Many disabled people, including those who receive SSI, live below the poverty line. According to a 2015 NPR article, disabled people in America are twice as likely as their nondisabled counterparts to live in poverty.
According to a study done by Boston University, older adults who have three or more functional limitations are nearly twice as likely as those who don’t to report both income-driven food insecurity (10.4 vs. 4.6%) and logistics-driven food insecurity (21.2 vs. 11.2%). Additionally, using data from the 2011-2014 National Health Interview Survey, research showed that young adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities have much greater levels of food insecurity than young adults without disabilities, even when poverty is accounted for.
Housing is another expense that many disabled people can’t afford. Margret Davis, 55, is one of them. She receives SSI but cannot find a place to live. While looking for a place to live, she is attempting to live on $50 in cash and $150 in SNAP benefits.
According to Zumper, a website that tracks rental prices, the average apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Davis lives, now rents for $1,500 per month. Rent today is 70% more expensive than it was ten years ago. Making matters worse, the average family has been on the waiting list for affordable housing for 2.5 years nationwide.
Disabled people should not have to worry about affording food or housing. Nobody should have to worry about this. Everyone should be able to afford all of their basic expenses. Social Security benefits must provide a livable income for the millions of Americans who depend on them. Nobody should be hungry or homeless.
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