Thursday, February 2, 2017

Action Alert: SSI Must be Preserved to Support Children with Disabilities

You need to contact your Senators and Representative and share why SSI is important for your child. US Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121

from  Community Legal Services of Philadelphia:

Date Posted: 

Congress is weighing proposals to significantly cut or eliminate Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for children with disabilities. SSI is a Social Security benefit that provides vital monetary support to low-income children and adults with serious disabilities, as well as seniors. The program helps to meet basic needs for vulnerable people, including food, shelter and clothing.  Although the maximum monthly SSI payment is only $735.00, that income can be a lifesaver for struggling families.  For families caring for a child with a disability, that income can help replace wages when a parent needs to stay home to take care of their child. It also provides for the child’s special needs, helping to avoid institutionalization of the child, homelessness and other harms.
Here are some reasons why the children’s SSI program must be preserved, in order to help children with disabilities:
1. Children with disabilities are more likely to be living in poverty.
In addition to the obstacles children face due to having disabilities, studies show that children with disabilities are significantly more likely to live in poverty than their non-disabled peers.  These vulnerable children experience true hardships including insufficient food, unstable housing, or being disconnected from utilities.  These hardships can exacerbate disabling conditions and make long-term outcomes more dire.
2. SSI helps alleviate poverty for families of children with disabilities
SSI is important because it is highly effective at reducing the poverty gap – that is the total amount of money needed to lift families out of poverty.  In fact, studies show that SSI is key to keeping many low-income families caring for children with disabilities out of deep poverty, and that for 30 percent of child SSI recipients, those benefits lift the family above the poverty line.  As a result, SSI improves the long-term outcomes for children with disabilities, keeping them healthier, safer, and more independent as they grow up.
3. Families raising children with disabilities face elevated financial burdens including employment opportunities.
Parents caring for children with disabilities face significant financial burdens, including educational and employment limitations.  Many children with disabilities need in-home parental care to avoid institutionalization.  Others need to attend frequent therapy and doctors’ appointments.  In order to meet those needs, parents must shoulder the financial burdens of staying at home or bringing their children to frequent appointments; for families struggling to get by, these costs can be devastating.
For many low-income parents, being at home and also available for frequent appointments requires them to cut-back hours at work, forego a second job, or even lose their job if their current job cannot accommodate the child’s appointment schedule.  Others have to work more hours to cover the greater child care expenses required for their child – leaving the family in an even worse financial position, as they struggle to cover the costs of basic necessities.  The burden is even greater when children with disabilities have unexpected medical or physical health crises, causing parents to miss work, and potentially lose their jobs, as they tend to the needs of their children. 
In the all-to-common circumstances where a parent either is unable to get or keep employment, or pursue education, because it conflicts with their obligations to care for their child with disabilities, SSI benefits serve as essential financial support to keep these families afloat and help the kids get the care they need.
4. Parents know best what their children need and how to budget for those needs.
Proposals to replace the SSI program with services would be inefficient and ineffectual.The financial costs related to raising a child with disabilities vary widely, and because these struggling families face such diverse obstacles, there is no service or service program that could address all the burdens they face. Only a cash benefit is flexible enough to provide for needs that may include adult diapers, special foods, babysitting, income replacement, and transportation costs.Replacing SSI with services may also have the unintended consequence of directing the services to higher-income families that do not face the same burdens. Maintaining SSI as a cash benefit is the most efficient way to ensure that the benefit addresses the most pressing needs to alleviate poverty.

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