Brown Introduces Legislation to Fix Outdated Policies that Penalize Ohioans for Saving for Emergencies

Current Law Restricts Savings, Harms Ohio Families

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a news conference call as he introduces legislation to update the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and allow Ohioans to save for emergencies without government penalties.

SSI is a federal program that provides financial assistance for elderly, disabled, and blind Americans with low-incomes and limited resources. Right now, SSI includes restrictions to prevent individuals from saving even a meager emergency fund. This federally-mandated lack of savings has terrible consequences and can lead to homelessness, hunger, and general vulnerability among its recipients.

“These arbitrary and out-of-date restrictions prevent Ohioans from saving for emergencies and punish people who want to earn a little extra money to provide for themselves and their families. That’s why I’m introducing legislation to update the law and stop punishing Ohioans who rely on this program for working or saving money,” said Brown.

Brown was joined on today’s call by Ms. Dorothy Gackstetter from Graytown whose son receives SSI benefits due to a developmental disability. Ms. Gackstetter purchased a life insurance policy for her son when he was born and the family was recently penalized for the cash value of the policy. Ms. Gackstetter had to take the policy out of her son’s name to ensure he could continue to receive SSI.

“I feel like my son does not have protection for the future because he does not have the life insurance policy any longer. I would support the SSI Restoration Act because the provisions included in the act, particularly the higher asset limit, would help people like my son,” said Ms. Gackstetter.

Brown’s bill, the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act, would:

  • 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.
  • Allow individuals to earn up to $399 – indexed to inflation – a month from working. This will reward, not penalize, SSI recipients who want to earn additional income to provide for themselves and their families.
  • Grant recipients the ability to receive up to $123 – indexed to inflation – in assistance from other sources: including Social Security, veterans’ benefits, and pension payments without being subject to a benefit reduction.
  • Eliminate the marriage penalty and increase the benefit for married couples to double the individual rate.
  • Repeal the penalty for individuals who live in households with others.

Right now, eligible individuals may receive a maximum benefit of $771 ($1,157 for couples) per month. The average current monthly benefit is $558 for individuals. For approximately 60% of recipients, SSI is their only source of income.

SSI has helped support more than 8.1 million recipients, including 1.1 million children. But much-needed reforms are necessary to bring SSI into the 21st century. Brown’s bill would return the program to its original goal of helping those that need it most.

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) and Robert Casey (D-PA).

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 more.