Recently a client inquiring about SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits asked me how people are supposed to live on the benefit. SSI is a disability or retirement program for low income individuals; many of whom do not have a work history or sufficient work credits to qualify for Social Security disability or retirement. The current maximum SSI benefit is $841 for an eligible individual, $1261 for two disabled spouses, and $421 for an essential person to an SSI beneficiary. Most SSI beneficiaries also receive SNAP (food stamps) benefits. The Food Stamp Program and SSI are critical parts of our national public assistance program. SNAP benefits increase the income of SSI recipients by about 13%.
In order to qualify for SSI, an individual may not have more than $2000 in countable income or assets. A couple may not have more than $3000 in countable income or assets. The SNAP benefits in Georgia have a lower income threshold than SSI. Thus, if you receive SSI you will be eligible for SNAP benefits. The monthly SNAP benefit currently for a single individual is $250. With these combined benefits, a single individual on SSI and food stamps has a monthly income of $1091 assuming no other deductions apply.
The federal government also provides other poverty safety net programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Section 8 Housing Assistance. However, these programs may not apply to all individuals or they may have waiting lists for available resources. TANF benefits are a monthly cash assistance for low income families with children under 18. TANF has a work requirement (thus it would not be applicable for a disabled individual). Further, TANF, as the name states, is available for a limited period of time. The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, provides subsidy rent payments directly to a landlord who participates in the program. Many SSI beneficiaries take advantage of this program. You can find out more about these assistance programs at the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services here. You can apply for Section 8 housing vouchers through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs here.
As to my client’s question about how does one live on SSI. The answer is by combining various benefit programs, often by relying on family for assistance with unexpected expenses, and by moving to areas of the state with lower costs of living, such as counties outside metropolitan Atlanta in south Georgia or north Georgia. The winner of the cheapest place to live in Georgia is Brunswick, according to several real estate websites.