Increase to Supplemental Security Income for elderly and disabled passes in the Legislature but dies in final budget negotiations with the Governor

This article was written for the Hunger Coalition by Kristen Aster at Hunger Advocacy Network

After months of advocacy by organizations around the state, joined under the umbrella Californians for SSI (CA4SSI), on June 15, 2015 the California Legislature passed a state budget that increased investment in the SSI/SSP program for the first time in years. This budget provided a $10 per month increase for individuals who receive SSI/SSP and scheduled a reinstatement of Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) to the state portion of the grant in 2020. While the monthly grant increase was not enough to bring SSI/SSP recipients above the poverty line, it would have helped elderly, blind, and disabled individuals stretch their extremely limited budgets of $889 per month for housing, medicine, and food that much further. San Diego’s Assemblymember Shirley Weber, Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, spoke up strongly for SSI/SSP recipients in San Diego during budget hearings.

Due to differing estimates between the Legislature and Governor Brown of anticipated state revenues in the upcoming fiscal year, a 2015-16 budget agreement was reached that unfortunately cut these new SSI/SSP investments from the final budget, as well as most of the other new investments made by the Legislature in social safety net programs. This revised budget passed the Legislature on June 19, 2015.

A positive state economic outlook, strong payments into constitutionally-required education guarantees, and significant progress this year in creating awareness about the needs of SSI/SSP recipients all bode well for securing these gains through renewed advocacy efforts next year. In the meantime, however, low-income, food insecure San Diegans who rely on SSI/SSP to meet their most basic needs will remain vulnerable to hunger.