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  • The Center for Rural Homelessness

What is the Supplemental Security Income Program?

By: Katie Baughman, Policy Intern



OVERVIEW

The Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI) is a federal Social Security program for disabled, low-income individuals, who are provided with monthly payments directly. It was created as part of the Social Security Amendments of 1972, signed into law by President Nixon. Although the program is managed by Social Security, funds come from US Treasury general funds rather than the Social Security trust. SSI is a means-tested program, providing funding based on estimated financial need to individuals who are blind, over the age of 65, or meet the eligible criteria for federal disability. Funds are generally only provided to those who earn less than $1913 from work each month, and who have limited wealth from resources. 


More than 7.5 million individuals receive SSI benefits. Benefits are sent directly to individuals each month, and in 2023, the average monthly SSI payment to individuals over 65 was $553.  Working-age adults make up the largest group of SSI recipients, but nearly 40% are children and individuals over 65. Many individuals are eligible for both SSI and Social Security benefits.


HOW DOES THIS AFFECT RURAL AREAS?


The SSI program, while providing assistance for individuals across all parts of the country, is uniquely beneficial to many elderly and disabled Americans living in rural areas who have limited or no other means of income. Individuals living in rural areas across the country are more often living with a disability than individuals in urban areas, with nearly 15% of rural Americans reporting a disability as compared to 12.6% of people living in urban areas. Benefits to older Americans are also demographically important for rural areas, as 20% of rural Americans are above 65, as compared to 16% in urban areas. Then, SSI benefits largely go towards rural Americans.


A program that directly provides for low-income individuals, SSI is also a beneficial resource for rural individuals living in poverty and at risk of homelessness. It is one of the most prevalent additional forms of income for individuals in rural communities, providing funding that allows individuals to have increased access to housing, food costs, or cover other resource expenses like electricity or gas. Functioning as a consistent form of monthly income for many individuals who have little or no other monthly income sources, SSI helps keep many rural individuals and families out of homelessness.

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