Lankford Protects Low-Income Oklahomans’ Ability to Save for Emergencies

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK Senator James Lankford (R-OK) joined Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) to announce the first bipartisan, bicameral push in decades to reform the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which has not been updated in nearly 40 years and currently punishes older and disabled Americans for saving for emergencies and their futures.

“Currently, disabled and senior adults in Oklahoma will lose their Supplemental Security Income benefits if they save money for an emergency. That’s not right,” said Lankford. “SSI’s outdated caps on savings and assets from the 1980s need a serious update to meet the economic realities of the 21st Century. Inflation is high and emergency savings are dwindling, so I’m glad to partner with Senators Brown and Cassidy to make this commonsense update to help the most vulnerable save for an emergency while still receiving monthly SSI benefits.” 

“SSI’s arbitrary and outdated rules make no sense. The government shouldn’t punish seniors and Ohioans with disabilities who do the right thing and save money,” said Brown. “It’s long past time we end these out-of-date government restrictions and allow Americans on SSI to save for emergencies and for their futures without putting the benefits they rely on to live at risk.”

“Someone who is disabled should not have to choose between a better job and losing their safety net because of outdated rules,” said Cassidy. “This is an easy fix that encourages work, allows people to save, and lifts people out of poverty.”

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Susan Collins (R-ME), and Bob Casey (D-PA) have joined Lankford, Brown, and Cassidy in introducing the bill.

The Senators’ bipartisan SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act would update SSI’s asset limits for the first time since the 1980s to ensure disabled and elderly Americans are able to prepare themselves for a financial emergency without putting the benefits they rely on to live at risk. This bill also provides equity to married couples, eliminating the asset limit’s marriage penalty.  

The current SSI program punishes disabled and elderly Americans for working, saving for the future, and getting married. Right now, individuals receiving SSI benefits are limited to $2,000 in assets; for married couples it’s $3,000. The average current monthly benefit is $585 for individuals. For approximately 60 percent of recipients, SSI is their only source of income. The Savings Penalty Elimination Act would raise those caps, which have not been changed since 1984, to $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for married couples, and index them to inflation moving forward.

study by JPMorgan Chase & Co. suggests that current asset and income limits on federal benefits for people with disabilities create barriers to participating in the labor force and accumulating savings. Per the study, updating asset limits for SSI, as the Savings Penalty Elimination Act would do, would “expand economic opportunity and mobility for people with disabilities.”

A diverse range of more than 300 organizations, including AARP, JPMorgan Chase, the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Evangelicals, Microsoft, the Bipartisan Policy Center, The Arc of the United States, Catholic Charities, and more are joining the new effort.