As published by KTVU FOX 2, featuring Eileen Crumm, Robin Earth, Saida Mahoney, Charis Hill, Madison Parrota, and Aleyda Toruno:
By Caroline Hart •
"There are 10 million Americans with disabilities who would lose their government benefits if they keep just $2,000 in a bank account. That is the maximum amount a person can have in the bank before the federal government rules they are no longer eligible for Supplemental Security Income.
The cutoff makes preparing for an emergency, and even regular expenses, impossible. The $2,000 limit makes it tough to cover a month's rent in much of the Bay Area or repairs for a busted car.
SSI assists people with disabilities under 65, or people over 65 who don’t have access to resources or assets. The $2,000 asset limit hasn’t been updated since 1989, and that means that for over 30 years, as the cost of living and inflation have risen, the amount you can save has not. Based on federal inflation data, $2,000 in 1989 is the equivalent of $4,368 in June 2021.
Some people who collect SSI work part-time, others cannot work at all. They describe the SSI rules as a trap that keeps them in poverty.
Domino effect on other programs
Eileen Crumm, the executive director of Family Resource Navigators in Berkeley, said that not only is SSI the chief source of income for many adults with disabilities, it’s the gateway to many other programs, like Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program.
Out of Medi-Cal, another program called In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) provides home health care and support that helps people with disabilities to live independently.
"If you don't get SSI, and you don't get Medi-Cal, you don't get a personal care aide," Crumm said. "So it can be really difficult."
For people with disabilities who need 10, 15 or 24-hour support, the costs can be high. "And that's not something covered by general insurance," Crumm said. "So it is seen as a major barrier for adults with disabilities to get work."
Although SSI allows single people to have a home and one car, people using SSI as their only income would need a great deal of luck to repair or replace either of these on such a limited income."