Senators introduce first major bipartisan ISS legislation in more than 30 years
May 3, 2022
WASHINGTON DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced the introduction of the Savings Penalty Elimination Act update asset limits for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, which would allow recipients to have more savings in case of an emergency without affecting their benefits. The senators’ bill, the first major bipartisan legislation in decades, would bring the SSI program into the 21st century and ensure Ohio’s disabled and elderly people can live with dignity.
An often-overlooked part of the US Social Security system, SSI is a federal program that provides lifesaving income assistance to nearly eight million low-income, resource-limited elderly and disabled Americans, including more than one million disabled children. But due to decades of shameful federal neglect, the program is now thrusting millions into deep and lasting poverty when it should be providing a lifeline instead.
“Rising costs and inflation affect all Americans, but especially the elderly and disabled in our country. Yet the Supplemental Security Income program that serves these vulnerable populations has not been updated in decades and punishes them for trying to save responsibly,” said Senator Portman. “I am pleased to introduce this legislation with Senator Brown to update SSI’s restrictive asset limits and better meet the needs of vulnerable seniors and Ohioans with disabilities.”
“We shouldn’t punish elderly and disabled Ohioans who do the right thing and save money for emergencies by taking away the money they depend on to live.“, said Senator Brown. “SSI’s arbitrary and outdated rules make no sense. Our bipartisan bill would update the old rules for the first time in decades and allow beneficiaries to save for emergencies without jeopardizing the benefits they rely on to live on.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. recently published a study this suggests that current asset and income limits on federal disability benefits create barriers to labor market participation and savings accumulation. According to the study, updating asset limits for SSI, as Senators Savings Penalty Elimination Act would, “expand the economic opportunities and mobility of people with disabilities”.
“JPMorgan Chase is proud to be a leading employer of people with disabilities, but outdated asset and income limits on federal benefits for this community create barriers to employment and career advancement, and limit savings for education, retirement or unexpected expenses for these families. Updating and simplifying asset and income limits for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will help expand economic opportunity and mobility for people with disabilities while advancing a more inclusive workforce,” said Jim Sinocchi, Managing Director, Office of Disability Inclusion, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The current SSI program has not been updated since the 1980s and punishes these Americans for working, saving for the future and getting married. Currently, people who get SSI are limited to $2,000 in assets; for married couples, it’s $3,000. The current average monthly benefit is $585 for individuals. For about 60% of recipients, SSI is their only source of income.
“Disabled people in Ohio rely on SSI to access Medicaid and to help pay for day-to-day expenses. But outdated SSI rules prevent people from saving, trapping them in poverty. For the first time in decades, this bipartisan legislation would make long-needed reforms to SSI and ensure people with disabilities can save more for emergencies and have a little more flexibility,” said Gary Tonks, president and CEO of The Arc of Ohio.
“The ISS is nothing less than a lifeline for nearly eight million of the country’s poorest elderly and disabled people. But because SSI has been left to rot on the vine for nearly 40 years, woefully outdated program rules now confine elderly and disabled beneficiaries to deep and lasting poverty, despite the fact that the program was intended to provide a pathway Release“, said Rebecca Vallas, senior researcher at the Century Foundation who leads the organization’s disability economic justice team. “By updating SSI asset limits to reflect inflation for the first time since 1989, this landmark bipartisan legislation represents a major step forward for long-forgotten SSI recipients. Congress should act quickly to pass this important legislation so that disabled and older Americans are no longer prevented from saving and planning for the future.
“It is high time for Congress to once again update SSI’s asset limits, which have become overly restrictive and inhibit the accumulation of even modest personal savings,” said Bill Sweeney, senior vice president of AARP.
Senators Savings Penalty Elimination Act would like to:
- Update asset limits for SSI recipients, allowing them to have more savings for emergencies without affecting their benefits.
- The bill will change these limits, which have not been changed since 1984, to $10,000 and $20,000, respectively, and will index them to inflation going forward.