Senior Policy Analyst
The House GOP poverty plan would eliminate Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for 1.3 million severely disabled children in poor families, vaguely proposing to re-orient SSI to provide services instead. Eliminating these modest but critical benefits, however, would hurt some of America’s most vulnerable children and damage their prospects for future success. While vital, the services are a supplement, not a substitute, for cash assistance. What’s more, many SSI children already receive these services through existing special education, early intervention, and health care programs.
As we consider ways to address poverty, we should strengthen — not weaken — SSI, which plays an important role in reducing poverty and hardship today and improving prospects for tomorrow:
The GOP’s poverty plan doesn’t represent “new thinking.” In the mid-1990s, lawmakers considered — but firmly rejected — the idea of replacing SSI’s cash benefits for disabled children with services, agreeing with two expert panels (see here and here) that the idea was deeply flawed.
SSI’s income support is one part of a larger system of services that help disabled children succeed in school and successfully transition to adulthood. Removing the assistance that enables families to cover the high costs of raising disabled children won’t reduce poverty — and it could jeopardize the most vulnerable kids’ long-term chances.