California has the highest rate of senior poverty in the nation. Older adults are struggling to make ends meet and stay in their homes, especially in the parts of California with the highest housing costs. Homelessness among California seniors is on the rise.
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), can be an economic lifeline for low-income older adults as it provides a very basic income to pay for shelter, food, and other necessities. However, the program is historically under-enrolled.
Improving and Protecting SSI for California Seniors
Justice in Aging has launched two new projects in 2016 and 2017 to increase access to and utilization of SSI benefits among older adults in California, and to build a strong coalition of statewide advocates who are informed about and trained in the details of the SSI program.
- One project is aimed at improving access to SSI for low-income seniors residing in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- A second project is aimed at improving access to SSI for low-income seniors who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness in California, with an initial emphasis on the Los Angeles and greater Southern California region.
Specifically these projects will address problems in the administration of the SSI program, and improve access to SSI for low-income older adults. This will be accomplished through targeted trainings on SSI for local advocates and service providers so that they are better equipped to serve their clients, as well as building a network of local partners interested in working toward systemic improvements.
These projects allow Justice in Aging to deepen our impact in California, and to leverage what we learn through our work in the Los Angeles area and the Bay Area to inform our efforts to fight senior poverty throughout California and the nation.
Facts About SSI in California
California is home to nearly 1.3 million SSI recipients. In Alameda County alone over 50,000 people rely on SSI, and over 25,000 SSI recipients reside in Contra Costa County. Seniors receiving SSI, as well as service providers who are helping them, often have a hard time understanding SSI eligibility rules that lead to reductions and terminations. Those currently receiving SSI frequently experience problems when trying to appeal decisions that reduce or terminate their benefits, because they cannot navigate Social Security’s burdensome and complex appeal process.