CA4SSI Coalition Sends Strong Message to Governor on SSI Cash-out
June 1, 2018
Today, the CA4SSI coalition sent a letter to the Governor urging the state to fund a state nutrition supplement to the SNAP grant for families that lose benefits. CAFB, food banks from across the state and other anti-poverty groups form this coalition.
The cash-out request is a historic opportunity to end the decades-old exclusion of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients living in California from receiving CalFresh – some 370,000 people or nearly 10 percent of our entire CalFresh caseload are living at or below poverty and yet are denied basic food benefits. As a result, food banks across the state have literally been helping to keep alive the elders and people with disability who cannot live on sub-poverty SSI/SSP grants. This is inhumane for those on SSI and unsustainable for charitable food providers who aren’t built for permanent support.
Yet approximately 140,000 families with either a child or parent living with a disability would lose some or all of their CalFresh benefits as a result of ending cash-out. SSI recipients and advocates are united that no family should become poorer so that some SSI recipients can be less poor.
It’s also a good deal for California: For roughly the cost of a four percent increase in the State Supplementary Payment (SSP) amount (approximately $114 million) the state could provide a hold harmless policy that maintains SNAP levels for families if cash-out is ended. Because by ending cash-out, California will draw down approximately $365 million in new federal SNAP benefits, meaning that each General Fund dollar spent brings in $3.20 in new federal funds.
CA4SSI cites the following as needed to lift more Californians out of poverty:
1. California should opt out of SSI cash-out and allow SSI recipients to apply for SNAP assistance.
2. California should deliver the benefit via an existing or new state supplemental nutrition system to prevent a loss of income for families that have a combination of SSI and SNAP recipients:
• The benefit should be provided so long as the SSI recipient lives in the household.
• The benefit should be available to any family with both SSI and SNAP recipients in which the total family income is below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
• A household that is not currently receiving SSI and SNAP, but which does in the future, shall be eligible for the benefit.
• The benefit can be determined by providing a flat amount based on the household size and number of SSI recipients to ease automation and implementation. It should be indexed for inflation following the CNI so that the benefit does not erode, as has the $10 cash-in.
3. California should fund aggressive outreach and application assistance to enroll SSI recipients onto SNAP. SSI recipients, much more so than the general population, will need substantial assistance to overcome barriers to completing the application, interview, and verification process. A small investment will ensure that California draws down as much federal SNAP funding as possible.
–Andrew Cheyne, Director if Government Affairs