WASHINGTON — Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders, (I-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Monday led dozens of their colleagues in the House and Senate in calling for the Biden administration to make historic and much-needed expansions and improvements to the Supplemental Security Income program. 

Joining as co-leads on the letter in the House are Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Katie Porter (D-CA), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.). The co-leads are also joined by 27 other House members and 15 other senators.

“In recovering from the pandemic, as your administration has made clear, we have an unprecedented opportunity to expand the American social safety net and lay the foundation for a just, sustainable society,” the members wrote in the letter. “As you prepare to build on that vision with the forthcoming American Families Plan, we ask that you devote particular attention to the lowest-income disabled and older Americans, who are all too frequently left behind. In that spirit, we wish to highlight desperately needed improvements to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, many of which were included in the historic commitments you made to the disability and aging communities during your presidential campaign.”

SSI provides monthly cash payments to 8 million low-income Americans with disabilities and older Americans — a lifeline for people who otherwise would have little or no other income. As of December 2020, 1.1 million recipients of SSI were children. The basic monthly SSI benefit in 2021 is $794 for an individual and $1,191 for a couple.

Coming ahead of the Biden administration’s release of its American Families Plan, the letter urges the following expansions and improvements to the SSI program in order to ensure SSI recipients are not trapped in a cycle of poverty: 

  • Raise benefit levels above the federal poverty line;

  • Increase the SSI asset limit and index it to inflation going forward;

  • Update income exclusions and index them to inflation going forward;

  • Eliminate the marriage penalty and in-kind maintenance and support rules that reduce benefits for those who receive shelter, meals, or groceries from family or friends.

“People with disabilities and older adults receiving SSI represent some of the most marginalized members of our society,” the members wrote. “History will not forgive us if we fail to address their needs in the recovery effort. We ask you to prioritize these essential SSI reforms in the American Families Plan and stand ready to work with you to make them a reality.”

Click here to read the full text of the letter.