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Regulatory Changes to In-Kind Support Rules Expand Access to SSI

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently finalized three Supplemental Security Income (SSI) rules that will reduce barriers and expand access to SSI. These rules impact in-kind support and maintenance (ISM) determinations, in which an individual’s SSI benefit can be reduced by up to one-third if SSA determines that they are getting in-kind help with food or shelter from others. These changes will help older adults and individuals with disabilities who live in low-income households to qualify for SSI and receive the full SSI benefit, reduce reporting burdens, and ensure that food received from friends and family is not counted as income that reduces an individual’s SSI benefit.

All three rules will go into effect on September 30, 2024.

Expanding the definition of a “public assistance” household

Currently, if an SSI individual (whether an applicant or a recipient) is in a household where everyone receives a “public assistance” benefit, they are considered to be living in a “public assistance” household and SSA does not need to evaluate whether other household members are providing the SSI recipient with in-kind support. This means that the individual does not need to give SSA detailed information on their living arrangement, and SSA will not reduce their SSI benefit due to in-kind support from other household members. This is because it is assumed that everyone in a public assistance household needs their own income to meet their own needs. Currently, public assistance benefits include SSI, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and General Assistance (GA) / General Relief (GR).

Change 1

Adds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a public assistance benefit. This will also affect SSI deeming, which is when income and resources belonging to persons who do not qualify for SSI are considered available to the person applying for or receiving SSI. Income that was used to calculate SNAP benefits for an ineligible spouse/parent or for someone else will not be included in the SSI deeming analysis.

Change 2

Defines a public assistance household as one where at least one other member of the household receives a public assistance benefit (versus the prior definition that requires all members of the household to receive a public assistance benefit). For example, if an SSI individual lives in a household with two other people, one of whom receives SNAP, this will now be considered a “public assistance” household.

Omitting food from in-kind support calculations

Currently, while there are SSI exclusions for food assistance from government or charitable sources like SNAP benefits or food banks, food from non-excluded sources (such as from family and friends) counts as in-kind income and reduces an SSI recipient’s benefits.

Change

Food will no longer be counted as income across the board, no matter the source.

Expanding the rental subsidy rule

Currently, in all but seven states, if an SSI individual is a renter and their landlord is their parent or their adult child, SSA will ask questions to determine if the landlord is charging the SSI individual less rent than what they would charge someone else. As a result, SSA could reduce the SSI benefit by up to the “Presumed Maximum Value,” currently $334.33 in 2024 for an SSI individual (one-third of the SSI federal benefit rate + $20).

Change

If an SSI individual in this situation pays rent equal to or greater than the “Presumed Maximum Value,” SSA will assume that the rent is charged under a “business arrangement” and will not reduce the SSI benefit.

In the coming months, Justice in Aging will provide further resources to help advocates understand the details of these rule changes and how they will affect your clients.

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