Supplemental Security Income (SSI)


  • SSI is a safety net program administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that provides a very basic income to older adults and people with disabilities with no or very limited other income or resources.

WHY is ssi important?

  • SSI is very often the only source of income its recipients have and the only thing keeping people from losing their homes, starving, and even dying.

How much is the benefit?

  • The maximum federal payment for an individual is $771 a month. For a couple it’s $1,157 a month. Some states, like California, kick in a small supplement to make up for higher cost of living. The maximum federal benefit of $771 a month is just 74% of today’s federal poverty line.

Who receives SSI?

  • Approximately 8.2 million Americans rely on SSI to pay for their basic needs like food, housing, healthcare, medicine, and clothing.

  • Most SSI recipients either can’t work due to disability, or are elderly but receive very little or no social security due to lack of work history in the traditional labor market.

  • Women who never worked outside the home, farm workers, domestic workers, and others who were paid “off the books” are often SSI recipients. More than two-thirds of elderly adults receiving SSI payments are women.

  • One out of three older adults applying for SSI has a primary language other than English.

How is SSI Different from Social Security?

  • Social Security is financed through payroll taxes and benefits are based on earnings and work history.

  • SSI is a needs-based program for people with little-to-no other resources or income.

California State Supplementary Payment (SSP)

What is SSP

  • The SSP is California’s supplemental payment to recipients of SSI. The current maximum SSP is $160 a month for an individual and $407 for a couple, down from $233 and $568 a month in 2009. Current levels leave California SSI recipients receiving the maximum combined state and federal benefit living at just 89% of the federal poverty line. 

Why do californians need SSP?

  • California has a high cost of living relative to other states. The SSP is supposed to keep elderly individuals and people with disabilities who receive SSI from falling into poverty. But cuts to the SSP and the repeal of the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) has pushed more than 1 million Californians into poverty.

What is the COLA?

  • COLA stands for Cost of Living Adjustment, a yearly adjustment to SSP benefits that is supposed to ensure that the income of elderly Californians and people with disabilities keeps up with the cost of living so they don’t become homeless and hungry. Unfortunately, to balance the state budget during the recession in 2009, the COLA was repealed just as SSP benefits were cut across the board, delivering a one-two punch of misery to California’s poorest residents. 

Californians for SSI (CA4SSI) seeks to both repeal the cuts to the SSP and restore the COLA.