FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
People with disabilities and older adults in California face poverty due to
recession-era cuts to bolster Rainy Day fund
Sacramento — Today, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients and advocates head to the State Capitol to meet with legislators and share first-hand testimony about living on SSI at the State Assembly Budget Hearing. The coalition — which includes more than 200 organizations — centers individuals living on SSI in accordance with the disability rights motto “nothing about us without us.”
Today’s delegation was significantly reduced in response to COVID-19 and CDPH’s guidance, as SSI recipients are older adults and/or people living with disabilities — those most vulnerable to COVID-19.
“We know there is no substitute for people sharing their first-hand experience of trying to live a healthy and dignified lifestyle on SSI, but we must protect our vulnerable community members. As SSI champions, we will do our best to echo the voices of those who are able to make the trek to Sacramento,” said Andrew Cheyne, director of government affairs for the California Association of Food Banks, a CA4SSI member. “We must restore the recession-era cuts to the state portion of the SSP grant. It is unfair and unjust to balance the budget on the backs of older adults and people with disabilities.”
It is estimated by the Department of Social Services that SSI / SSP grant amounts will be a maximum of $950 beginning January 1, 2020. The 2020 federal poverty level for a single individual is estimated to be $1,056 a month. California has one of the highest rates of senior poverty in the country – almost 50% of people 65 and older have incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty level.
“Since the 2009 recession, California has kept our SSI payments at an amount that is below the federal poverty level. It’s clear that these dangerously low grant payments are effecting our state’s ability to manage homelessness and poverty,” said Senator Melissa Hurtado. “With Homelessness being one of the top issues that our state faces today, the legislature has an opportunity to restore these dangerous cuts by helping to cover the cost of rent to help low‑income individuals achieve and maintain self‑sufficiency.”
The three key asks of the Coalition include:
- Support an approximately $100 a month budget augmentation to bring SSI grants to 100% of the federal poverty level for a single recipient.
- Re-establish the statutory cost of living adjustment for the State Supplemental Payment (SSP) portion of the grant on January 1, 2020.
- Ensure that recipients of the SNB and the TNB programs are provided the same legal protections that SNAP recipients are currently provided, including protections around churn and replacement benefits during disaster.
“In the time since cuts were made in 2009, over $11 billion has been taken from SSI recipients and put toward the Rainy Day fund and budget surplus,” said Mike Herald, director of policy advocacy at Western Center on Law & Poverty. “The state needs to recognize that for people on SSI, rainy days are here now, and with the current housing crisis, restored grant amounts could mean the difference between staying housed and being priced out for recipients across California.”
“It has been a decade since the drastic cuts were made to the SSI/SSP grants. It is time that persons with disabilities and older adults have those cuts restored to narrow this shameful poverty gap left by the cuts. California needs to protect its most financially distressed citizens. We can afford it, and it is the right thing to do,” says Andrew Imperato, executive director at Disability Rights California.
Californians for SSI (CA4SSI) is a statewide coalition of over 200 organizations across the aging, disability rights, housing and homeless, anti-hunger, and anti-poverty sectors. We see the suffering that our most vulnerable residents are facing every day and we seek to ensure that they receive adequate support to live their lives in dignity. For a full list of coalition members, go to: http://ca4ssi.org.
Courtney McKinney, Western Center on Law & Poverty: cmckinney[at]wclp.org