Bipartisan bill Seeks to update federal benefits for the elderly and disabled

If a Washington proposal takes effect, a benefits program for blind, disabled, and elderly individuals could be sent out.

A bipartisan group of Ohio senators — Democrats Sen. Sherrod Brown and Republicans Rob Portman — has proposed a bill to update Supplemental Security Income rules on how much money beneficiaries can set aside.

Supplemental Security Income was established by Congress in 1972.

On Thursday, the senators introduced their bill, called the SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act.

For individuals and couples who are both eligible for SSI, the maximum benefit is $841 per month or $1,261 per month.

Some recipients, however, receive much less than others.

On average, all recipients receive $625.50 per month.

The majority of those receiving these benefits are living below or close to the federal poverty level, which is $13,590 for an individual in 2022.

SSI beneficiaries are also subject to strict rules regarding assets and income.

As a result of Brown and Portman’s bill, beneficiaries will be able to accumulate more savings without affecting their benefits, thereby making an emergency more affordable.

Changes would also eliminate the marriage penalty for today’s beneficiaries since multiple assets are not counted twice as much for a single individual.

Savings and other assets are restricted under the program, making it “difficult for SSI beneficiaries and their families to achieve any measure of economic security,” J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Policy Center said.

“It doesn’t make sense for SSI’s rules to punish Americans for saving for emergencies,” Brown stated.

“Our bipartisan bill would update the outdated rules for the first time in decades and allow beneficiaries to save for emergencies without putting the benefits they rely on to live at risk.”

In addition to adjusting thresholds annually for inflation, the bill would also adjust benefits based on Consumer Price Index data.

Brown put forward a more extensive proposal last year called the SSI Restoration Act.

As part of that bill, income restrictions were lifted and benefits were indexed for inflation and raised to 100%.

An update of the program’s rules on income from work could help beneficiaries improve their standard of living, according to a study from the Urban Institute.

In the present program, beneficiaries are allowed up to $20 each month in unearned income, while their first $65 of earnings are exempt from the program’s rules.

In the event SSI benefits exceed that threshold, 50 cents will be deducted from each dollar of income. These thresholds were last altered in 1972.

Brown and Portman’s proposal coincides with Congress’s upcoming consideration of retirement legislation, Secure 2.0, which includes emergency savings measures as well.

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