SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (WDTN) – Senator Sherrod Brown visited The Abilities Connection (TAC), manufacturing plant in Springfield, on Friday to discuss his efforts to improve and reform Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Workers at the plant, many of whom have been diagnosed with developmental disabilities, manufacture cargo nets for the U.S. Air Force. While many of these employees rely on SSI in addition to their employment income to support themselves and their families, Brown said the current system, which hasn’t received significant updates since the 1980s, often penalizes workers for making personal or financial advancements.

“Sixty percent of the 300,000 Ohioans on SSI rely on SSI for their entire income,” Brown said to the workers. “I know that it affects a number of you, the number of hours you can work, the number of dollars you’re allowed to save — in some cases people pay a penalty if they get married.”

Those penalties, he said, come in the form of the deductions from SSI payments following certain economic changes.

“The average SSI payment is about $550 a month. Not a week, a month. That’s the average. But if they work and make more than just a little bit of money, they lose part of that. If they get married, they’re penalized because the law is written that way. And if they save money, and they save more than a couple thousand dollars, they can lose part of their SSI.”

To combat these kinds of negative impacts on the nearly 8 million blind or disabled Americans who receive SSI payments, Brown has sponsored the SSI Restoration Act to help relieve the financial burdens of elderly and disabled Americans and their families.

Sevda Frohlich, an employee of TAC for 36 years, said she and her family could use the help offered by the new bill.

“I think it’s very, very important because one, I don’t want to change my work hours. Two, I live with my elderly mother and I’d like to save for emergency purposes, and three, for bills,” Frohlich said. “And I think it’s very, very important that this bill passes not only for me, but for others.”

If the SSI Restoration Act is approved, it would:

  • Raise SSI’s sub-poverty-level monthly benefits, currently $794 per month, to 100% of the federal poverty level — a 31% increase — and index them to inflation
  • Update and index the assets individuals or couples may have up to $10,000 and $20,000, respectively. The current limit of $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple has not been updated since 1989
  • Update and index SSI’s income rules — which have never been updated since the program was signed into law in 1972. These reforms will allow individuals to earn up to $399 a month from working, and up to $123 a month in assistance from other sources: including Social Security, veterans’ benefits, and pension payments without being subject to a benefit reduction
  • These reforms will reward, not penalize, SSI recipients who want to earn additional income to provide for themselves and their families
  • Eliminate the marriage penalty and increase the benefit for married couples to double the individual rate, to put marriage equality within reach for SSI beneficiaries
  • Eliminate benefit reductions that penalize beneficiaries who receive in-kind help from friends or family, such as groceries or a place to stay

Senator Brown and his co-sponsors are advocating for the bill to be adopted in the next recovery package.