Seniors from around California descended upon the Capitol last week in a strong show of support for increases to SSI/SSP payments. Dozens of seniors and stakeholders gave testimony at the Senate Budget Sub-Committee on Health and Human Services regarding the continuing impacts of cuts enacted in 2009 and encouraged lawmakers to use this year’s budget surplus to restore those cuts. Immediately following the hearing, the advocates met with Assemblymembers Tony Thurmond and Rob Bonta, and Senator Loni Hancock to share their personal stories and the critical role of SSI/SSP in their daily lives.
At stake in this budget year is the reinstatement of the state’s annual Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA), which was eliminated in 2009, and an increase in the State Supplementary Payment (SSP) to bring the total SSI/SSP benefit from 90% of the federal poverty level ($881/month for an individual) to above 100% of the federal poverty level ($980/month for an individual). Governor Brown, however, has proposed to use funds from this year’s budget surplus to add additional money to California’s “rainy day” fund; while advocates claim that it is already “raining” on seniors who depend on SSI/SSP and that surpluses should be used to restore the cuts made in the deficit years.
BACKGROUND: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal program designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people who have little or no income meet their basic needs. The state funded portion of this program is called the State Supplemental Payment (SSP). In January 2009 the SSI/SSP grant of $907 a month was worth 100.5 percent of the federal poverty level for a single individual. Since then SSP grants were repeatedly cut and no cost of living adjustments (COLA) were provided. Individual SSI/SSP grants are now worth just 90.7 percent of the federal poverty level, but if these cuts had not occurred, would be worth 106.7 percent of the federal poverty level, according to the California Budget Project. These cuts have pushed more than 1 million blind, aged and disabled Californians below the federal poverty level. This is a significant reason why we have seen our poverty rate skyrocket to the highest in the nation according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure.