Helping People With Disabilities Nationwide

Can I Survive on SSI?

by | Sep 27, 2022 | SSD - Supplemental Security Income (SSI) |

The short answer is likely “no”. The better answer is “yes, but with help”.

SSI cash payments are currently set by the Federal government at $841 for an individual and $1,261 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse. This was increased in January 2022 when the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) was increased by 5.7%. The increase for 2023 is expected to be one of the highest in decades, at roughly 8%.

That $841 is reduced if you receive cash, food, or shelter from another. Certain amounts are NOT taken out of this amount and include:

• UNEARNED income: the first $20 in a month from any source, the first $60 received infrequently in a quarter, HUD and SNAP benefits, and any state or local resources received
• EARNED income: the first $65 earned per month + the $20 unearned income + ½ of the remainder, work expenses that make it possible for you to work, the first $30 of infrequently received income in a quarter, and income set aside to aid a blind individual in achieving self-support

Average rental costs across the United States in 2022 have been reported between $1,827-$2,000 per month through various realty and government data. Doing the math (even if you’re not good at it) is pretty easy: $841/month ≠ $2,000/mo. Even with additional supports like SNAP (which can only be used to obtain food, not for housing) and utility company assistance, the funds just aren’t there. This means individuals on SSI often still find themselves unable to obtain or keep safe and stable housing, too often landing in shelters or tent encampments as a homeless individual. Alternatively, they must find eligible roommates, rely on shelter from family or friends and risk reduction in their monthly cash benefits, or resort to dishonesty and risk committing fraud.

Recently SSI claims took a drastic hit during the pandemic, when offices closed, and large numbers of staff left their jobs, making the wait for any benefits even longer.

While the SSI program was never meant to replace a living wage, its goal IS to “assure a minimum level of income for supplemental security income recipients who otherwise do not have sufficient income and resources to maintain a standard of living at the established Federal minimum income level”, which is, in fact, poverty.


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