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Letter: Essential income

Last month, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., introduced legislation that would increase Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for the most vulnerable Americans.

Congress created the SSI program in 1972 to assist the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and the blind. SSI provides need-based cash benefits to more than 8 million Americans. For the majority of recipients, SSI provides their only source of income; the maximum SSI benefit is approximately $700 per month.

The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act would increase allowable income and asset levels by indexing them to inflation (the last increase was in 1989). The new law would also repeal the penalty (in the form of reduction or elimination of benefits) against SSI recipients for financial, food, and housing support from friends and family.

The current law discourages SSI beneficiaries from working and saving money and undermines loved ones’ efforts to help.

The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act would raise the amount of:

∎ earned income a person can make to $357 per month (from $65);

∎ unearned income a person can receive to $110 per month (from $20);

∎ and assets a person or a couple can have to $10,000 and $15,000, respectively (from $2,000 and $3,000, respectively).

Additionally, the benefits would be indexed to inflation starting 2016. What’s more, the proposed changes would reduce administrative burdens and errors by the Social Security Administration in levying in-kind support penalties, resulting in cost savings and relief from bureaucratic nightmares for affected individuals and families.

SSI is essential to our poorest members of society. Time to catch up to their needs, by 25 years.

SEUNGHEE CHA

Amherst

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