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The safety net

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By Kay Louder
Guest Columnist

There’s a safety net out there for those who might otherwise slip through the cracks. It’s called Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Administered by Social Security, SSI makes payments to people with limited income and few resources who are age 65 or older, blind, or have a disability.
Funding for the SSI program comes from the general revenues of the U.S. Treasury, not from Social Security payroll taxes.
When we consider people’s income, we count things such as wages, Social Security benefits and pensions. However, Social Security does not count all of your income when it decides whether you qualify for SSI. For example, we don’t count food stamps or most home energy assistance.
Resources we count in deciding whether you qualify for SSI include real estate (other than the home you live in), bank accounts, cash, stocks, and bonds. A person with resources worth no more than $2,000 may be able to get SSI. That resource limit is $3,000 for couples.
To qualify for SSI, you must live in the United States or the Northern Mariana Islands and be a U.S. citizen or national. In rare cases, noncitizen residents can qualify for SSI. If you live in certain types of institutions or live in a shelter for the homeless, you may qualify for SSI.
People with blindness or disability who apply for SSI may be able to get free special services to help them work. These services may include counseling, job training, and help finding work.
The monthly maximum Federal SSI payment is the same nationwide and amounts to $674 for a person and $1,011 for a married couple. However, the amount you receive depends on factors such as where you live, your living arrangements, and income. Some states also supplement or add money to the Federal payment.
To learn more about SSI, read the online publication, You May Be Able To Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/11069.html or visit the SSI page at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi. Or call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY, 1-800-325-0778).
If you’re too disabled to work but haven’t paid enough into Social Security to qualify for benefits on your record, SSI may be the program to help you.
Kay Louder is the Social Security District Manager in Gainesville.