Oct 10, 2009

California Cuts SSI

First, let me give a little background. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) was created in the 1970s to give federal benefits to indigent aged, disabled and blind Americans. SSI replaced a prior system of federal grants given to the states which administered their own systems of benefits for the same population. The recipients of the state aid were grandfathered into SSI. Some state benefits were higher than the new SSI benefits. States were allowed to supplement SSI benefits in their states so that their residents would not be hurt by the change to SSI. Quite a number of states have done so ever since, but those states have always had the ability to decrease the supplementation or discontinue it. The state supplements are paid in the same check or direct deposit as the federal SSI benefit.

With that as a background, here is a report from KHSL-TV in Chico-Redding, California:
Denise Johnson and her husband have relied on their social security supplementary payments for two years now. But making ends meet this time around has been tough for the couple. lawmakers have already reduced their social security benefits twice this year, and just a couple days ago, the Johnsons received a letter in the mail stating their paychecks will get a third cut.

Johnson told Action News, "There was no warning or nothing. It was kind of like a slap in the face, here you go, it's gone," adding, "I thought it was wrong for them not to say anything at all and just make it a surprise. I think they should have just spoke up and been more honest."

The Johnsons will get another $41 deducted from each of their paychecks each month. All three cuts this year total to about $170 from the couple's combined paychecks every month. The third cut begins November. The Johnsons' paychecks are now down to a little more than $54 each. The Johnsons use the money for food, and because they are already receiving additional help from the state, they do not qualify for food stamps. Johnson says it is unfair. She said, "At least try to give us something back as far as getting food stamps from everybody that's getting the state supplementary."

Johnson says the cut this time around not only means less food on the table... it means less everything. She explained, "Just trying to really budget our money tight, and shop next to nothing."

A Social Security Administration public affairs official told me over the phone, they cannot explain the reason for the additional cuts and they are simply doing what state lawmakers tell them to do.

More than 1,000,000 people receive social security supplementary benefits in California
As you may have heard, the state of California is experiencing terrible budget shortfalls. The repeated cuts in SSI supplementation are one of the results of these budget shortfalls.

I am surprised that these cuts in SSI checks for Californians have not attracted more public attention.


Anonymous said...

Of course, the pathetically poor media continues to mis-identify the payments as "social security", because they are too lazy or stupid to get it right, as with most things.
I wish they would eliminate the state supp in NY--it creates a lot of additional administrative time and expense, and those who are street-smart know what to say to get the max, while those not-so-smart get screwed.

John Herling said...

!) Congress, in its infinite wisdom, has seen fit to burden SSA with the administration of programs that have nothing to do with Social Security - RRB (Railroad Retirement Bens., Medicare, and SSI). Is it any wonder that backlogs are so high?

2) Why is it that Republicans have never attacked SSI, since it's everything they hate - welfare, federal bureaucracy, intrusion into people's personal affairs?

3) Why not give the states block grants again and let them administer their own welfare? If certain states see fit to pay people less than they need to survive, well, that's their responsibility, and they can take the heat for it when those people collapse in the streets.

Anonymous said...


Nancy Ortiz said...

I hate to say this since SSI is the program from Hell, but the cost savings of having SSA do SSI since 1974 are up toward $100Billion. The federal govt paid the states to administer categorical aid to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled and then, of course, they didn't pay people, or they paid 'em wrong, or they cut off the checks with no warning... Oh, yeah, well it seems the Good Old Days are back with a vengence. One of these days soon, someone is going to remember that there is a mandatory minimum state payment in there for people who were on since 1973, and we'll have another fine mess on our hands, Ollie.

Anonymous said...

Deducted from their paychecks? This is inaccurate. It is deducted from their welfare checks. SSI is welfare. It is not Social Security. And it definately is not a paycheck.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if the reporter got her facts correct and reported the bigger issue. Facts: there is no Social Security Supplement and the SSI payments are not paychecks.

The bigger issue is the marriage penalty inherant in the Federal Benefit Rate. The federal couple rate is 1.5 times the amount of the federal individual rate. The State of California couple rate is more than 2 times the amount of the California individual rate. If the Federal Benefit rate for a couple was a fair two times the Federal individual rate, this reduction in the SSI payment to the couple would seem more fair. Even with the 11/09 reduction, the California couple rate is still twice as much as the California individual rate. But lawmakers in California saw a big opportunity to save money by not helping make up for the marriage penalty for SSI recipients caused by the federal benefit rate.

There are more marriage penalties in SSI. SSI actually encourages not getting married by the regulations. As long as you are not married and not holding out to the community as married and you don't have joint bank accounts, you can live with your babyparent for 30 years, raise a passel of kids and have no spouse with income that affects your public assistance. Marriage dysincentive.

Of course, when the babyparent dies, you can't qualify for widow's or widower's Social Security benefits because you aren't one.