In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families.
A June 16 release from Senator Sherrod Bronw (D-OH):
Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) led Senate Democrats in re-introducing the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act to bring the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program into the 21st Century and ensure disabled and elderly Ohioans are able to live with dignity. An often-forgotten part of America's Social Security system, SSI is a federal program that provides vital income assistance to nearly 8 million elderly and disabled Americans with low-incomes and limited resources, including over 1 million disabled children. But due to decades of shameful federal neglect, the program now consigns millions to deep and enduring poverty, when it should instead offer a lifeline out of it.
“The promise of Social Security is to ensure that no one in America should live in poverty – least of all our nation's seniors and people with disabilities. By updating SSI we can deliver on this promise and ensure disabled and elderly Ohioans are able to live with dignity. Congress must prioritize these long-overdue reforms as part of upcoming recovery legislation,” said Brown.
The SSI Restoration Act would:
- Raise SSI's sub-poverty-level monthly benefits, currently $794 per month, to 100% of the federal poverty level--a 31% increase--and index them to inflation;
- Update and index the assets individuals or couples may have up to $10,000 and $20,000, respectively. The current limit of $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple has not been updated since 1989;
- Update and index SSI's income rules -- which have never been updated since the program was signed into law in 1972. These reforms will allow individuals to earn up to $399 a month from working, and up to $123 a month in assistance from other sources: including Social Security, veterans’ benefits, and pension payments without being subject to a benefit reduction.
- These reforms will reward, not penalize, SSI recipients who want to earn additional income to provide for themselves and their families;
- Eliminate the marriage penalty and increase the benefit for married couples to double the individual rate, to put marriage equality within reach for SSI beneficiaries; and
- Eliminate benefit reductions that penalize beneficiaries who receive in-kind help from friends or family, such as groceries or a place to stay.
In April, Brown, along with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), led colleagues in calling for the Biden administration to make historic and much-needed expansions and improvements to the SSI program as part of “building back better.” Several key elements of the SSI Restoration Act were endorsed by President Biden during the campaign.
Right now, eligible individuals may receive a maximum benefit of $794 ($1,157 for couples) per month. The average current monthly benefit is $585 for individuals. For approximately 60% of recipients, SSI is their only source of income.
Brown’s bill is cosponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Robert Casey (D-PA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN).
The bill has been endorsed by: Justice in Aging, AARP, AFL-CIO, AFSCME Retirees, Easter Seals, United Auto Workers (UAW), Leading Age, Homeless Action Center, Medicare Rights Center, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Center for Law & Economic Justice, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), National Council on Aging, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Women’s Law Center, New York Legal Assistance Group, Social Security Works, Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders (SAGE), Strengthen Social Security Coalition, the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, and over 87 national organizations.
Last month, Members of Congress, advocates, and supporters of SSI benefits gathered in a virtual event making the case for strengthened SSI benefits to be part of the next recovery package. Click here to watch a recording of the event.