What happened in 2009?
The state was in the grip of the recession, with state revenues way down and a budget shortfall of billions of dollars. The 2009 budget passed by the state legislature included $15 billion in cuts to services for Californians, many serving the poor. Those cuts included cuts to the State Supplemental Payment (SSP) for SSI recipients. The 2009 budget also repealed the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for SSI recipients. Starting in 2012 things turned around. With unemployment low and tax revenue up, the state budget now has a surplus, but California’s poorest residents are only seeing their situation worsen as the cost of housing explodes.
THE MAGNITUDE OF CUTS TO SSI/SSP
- In 2009 the state-funded SSP portion of grants to SSI recipients were cut from $233 a month to $156 a month for individuals and from $568 a month to $396.20 a month for couples.
- The SSI/SSP caseload has climbed by over 30,000 people since 2007 as more Californians were pushed into poverty by the recession, yet the state spends $1.6 billion (about 40%) less today than it did in 2007, after adjusting for inflation, for a total of just $2.6 billion.
- At the same time, the Cost of Living Adjustment to the SSP was repealed
- In every county in California, the “Fair Market Rent” (FMR) for a studio apartment exceeds 50% of the maximum SSI/SSP grant for an individual.
CUTS PUSHED 1 MILLION PEOPLE INTO POVERTY
- In January 2009 the SSI/SSP grant of $907 per month was worth 100.5% of the federal poverty level for a single individual
- Today’s SSI/SSP grant is worth just 90% of the federal poverty level.
- If SSI/SSP grants had not been cut and the state COLA had been provided every year since 2008, the maximum grant for an individual would be $1,161 today, or nearly 115% of the federal poverty line, according to the California Budget & Policy Center.
- In most counties in California the average price of a one bedroom apartment approaches or exceeds $1,000 a month.
THE HIGH COST OF LOW SSI/SSP GRANTS
California has the highest poverty rate of any state in the country. And poverty doesn’t just hurt poor people. It hurts society and costs the state money in other services.
- SSI/SSP recipients increasingly rely on emergency food, shelter, and health providers. Many are becoming homeless and going hungry, requiring expensive food, medical, and nursing home services that would not be needed if the grants covered basic needs.
- Women are the majority of SSI/SSP recipients.
- California is the only state where SSI/SSP recipients are barred from receiving food stamps.