The Social Security Administration proposed a rule change to its regulations in February 2023. SSA proposes to remove food from the calculation of In-kind Support and Maintenance (ISM). Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants and recipients would no longer need to provide information about their food expenses for consideration of ISM.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a safety net program for adults and children either blind or with disabilities and adults age 65 or older. Recipients must meet resource and income eligibility requirements. For an individual, the limit for eligibility is $2000; for a couple, $3000. A home that you reside in and one car are exempt from calculation. Resources are cash or other liquid assets or any property that can be converted to cash. Income is anything the recipient receives in cash or in-kind support that can be used to meet food or shelter needs. Resources affect SSI eligibility. Income can affect both eligibility and payment amounts.
Once a claimant is eligible for SSI, the person’s monthly payment is determined by subtracting countable income from the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR) which is the monthly maximum SSI payment. In 2023 the FBR is $914 for an individual and $1371 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse.
Income that is unearned (for example, cash from a family member) is reduced $1 for every $1 after the first $20 received each month. Income can be cash or in kind support. Given the complexities of evaluating this, SSA usually reduces the SSI maximum benefit by one-third.
The SSA ISM regulations have been a source of policy complaint. Critics suggest that the current SSI policies on ISM are complex, intrusive and inequitable. They create disincentives for families and friends to provide food and shelter to recipients. Also, in kind support is often a major source of payment error. While eliminating consideration of food is a positive policy change, it likely does not go far enough in correcting the problems with ISM.
Unlike Social Security, which is financed by payroll taxes, SSI is funded from general revenues. SSI expenditures were $60 billion in fiscal year 2021 which is .27 of the gross domestic product. In December 2022, 7.5 million people collected SSI benefits.