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CA Seniors, People with Disabilities Newly Eligible for both CalFresh and SSI

San Diego CA—Starting June 2019, major changes are coming to Californians who receive Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP). This is the program that provides a monthly cash benefit to seniors, the blind, and people with disabilities. California is one of the only states in which SSI/SSP recipients are precluded from participating in CalFresh (SNAP). This will end in June when SSI/SSP recipients will either be eligible to apply for CalFresh or will automatically be enrolled if they live in a house with other people who already receive CalFresh benefits. Under the revised policies, seniors with a fixed income will only need to reapply every three years. Individuals who are granted CalFresh benefits may receive as much as $120 per month.

San Diego Hunger Coalition was active and instrumental in gathering the momentum necessary to end SSI Cashout and reinstate state funding to increase SSI benefit payments and a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). These changes have the potential to significantly reduce food insecurity among seniors and people with disabilities in San Diego County and across the state of California.

San Diego Hunger Coalition research indicates that in San Diego County, 1 in 11 seniors are food insecure and 50% of adults experiencing food insecurity are living with a disability.

The Hunger Coalition is actively training and working with local nonprofit organizations, the County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency, and the California Department of Social Services to educate and inform those affected by the changes and encourage those eligible for CalFresh (SNAP) benefits to apply.

According to Hunger Coalition research, in San Diego, 91% of food assistance comes from federal programs (SNAP, WIC, school lunch, etc.) while 9% come from private charity (food banks, pantries, senior meal delivery, etc.). Altogether, senior congregate meals and meal delivery provide a little over 2 million meals annually. This is the equivalent of feeding nearly 2,000 seniors 3 meals/day. Currently in San Diego, 1 in 4 households receiving CalFresh (SNAP) have seniors over the age of 60, many of whom have previously not been eligible to apply for CalFresh due to SSI Cashout .

In 1974, the federal government began its SSI program. At the time, states were given the option to include a cash benefit in SSI payments in lieu of providing food stamps to SSI recipients. This was known as the “SSI Cashout.” California went with this option because it would save the state money in the form of reduced administrative costs. In 1974, that cash option was $10/month for food. In the intervening 45 years, that amount has not changed.

The current individual SSI/SSP benefit total is at the same level as it was in 1983. An individual on SSI/SSP will receive an average benefit of $932/month. The 2019 Federal Poverty Level is $1,040/month.

Many Californians are below the poverty level, are struggling to meet their basic needs and having to make tough choices between paying for housing, medicine, and food.

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