Chairman Brown and Ranking Member Young:
Thank you for the opportunity to include this statement in today’s hearing record. The National Committee is a grassroots advocacy and educational organization dedicated to preserving and strengthening safety net programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. All of these programs are vitally important to the well-being of the most vulnerable members of our society.
The SSI program provides critical income assistance to about 8.3 million very low-income older adults and people with disabilities — including over a million children. The maximum SSI benefit for 2021 is just $794 per month, an amount that is well below the federal poverty line for seniors. But even this modest benefit is vitally important to those individuals who receive it, helping as it does with the purchase of food, maintenance of housing and other basic needs.
Unfortunately, during the 50-year history of the program, Congress has failed to keep SSI up to date. For that reason, the National Committee supports your legislation, Mr. Chairman, S. 2065, the “Supplemental Security Restoration Act of 2021.” We urge you and your Senate colleagues to include S. 2065 in the budget reconciliation agreement that is currently being negotiated. The SSI Restoration Act remedies decades of inattention to this program by including the following provisions to:
- Increase the Federal benefit level so that SSI is more effective in alleviating poverty among seniors and disabled individuals;
- Update and index the resource limits so that they no longer prevent SSI beneficiaries from having even a modest rainy day fund;
- Adjust and index the income disregards, which have remained unchanged since Congress enacted the program in 1972; and
- Eliminate the marriage penalty and the In-Kind Support and Maintenance provisions.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare believes that seniors and disabled individuals should not live in poverty in this country. The economy of the United States is capable of supporting an SSI program that is more robust than today’s vitiated program.
The reforms included in the “SSI Restoration Act” are important, long overdue, and are urgently needed to ensure that the 8.3 million beneficiaries who depend on this safety net program can live in dignity.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, I wish to thank you for your leadership and for using this hearing to focus on the vitally important work of sustaining and improving the SSI program. SSI needs to be restored so that it is able to continue to support those seniors and disabled beneficiaries who depend on it, both for today and tomorrow.
We look forward to working with you and members of the subcommittee to enact these important program improvements.