House GOP Would Slash Billions In Benefits For Low-Income Disabled Kids

Our guest blogger is Rebecca Vallas from the SSI Coalition for Children and Families.

House Republicans recently proposed billions of dollars in cuts to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a critical income support for kids with severe disabilities who live in households with very low-income and assets. While the proposed cuts amount to just one 1/100th of a percentage point of the federal budget, they would be nothing short of devastating for our nation’s most vulnerable children, and the families who care for them.

The 2013 House Budget Resolution includes $3.5 billion in cuts (over 10 years) to benefits for the hardest-hit youngsters — those in families with more than one child receiving SSI for their disability. Some 150,000 children with severe disabilities would see their critically needed benefits cut dramatically, forcing parents to make impossible choices — whether to meet the needs of one disabled child over the other.

SSI provides income support, and Medicaid in most states, to low-income elderly and disabled Americans, including about 1.3 million children with severe disabilities. Only the most severely impaired children in households with very low income and resources qualify for SSI. Kids receive less than $600 per month, on average. While modest, SSI makes it possible for families to care for their kids with disabilities at home instead of in costly institutions.

It offsets some of the extra expenses related to the child’s disability — like transportation to and from doctors and specialists; adaptive equipment; and specialized child care — many of which may not be covered by private insurance or Medicaid.

It also replaces some of the income lost when a parent reduces his or her hours, or leaves a job altogether to stay home to care for a disabled child. Between 10 and 30 percent of parents (usually mothers) with disabled children report stopping working entirely, and between 15 and 68 percent report cutting work hours to care for their children with disabilities. Even with the income support from SSI, over a third of children receiving SSI remain in poverty.

Families with more than one disabled child are even harder hit. Over 70 percent of families with more than one disabled child receiving SSI report experiencing material hardships such as food insecurity, and housing and utility hardships—even with the income support from SSI.

Kids with disabilities face considerable obstacles. They are more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed, have lower earnings, and receive disability benefits as adults. SSI helps parents provide the services and supports kids with disabilities need, offering them a better chance to achieve self-sufficiency later in life, and saving taxpayer expenditures down the road.

Families raising low-income children with disabilities need more help, not less. Cutting SSI, especially for families raising more than one disabled child, would push already needy children with disabilities deeper into poverty, and would end up costing taxpayer dollars in the long run.

We can and must do better than balancing the budget on the backs of poor, disabled kids.

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