More Americans to qualify for Social Security under new SNAP rule

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has introduced a significant update aimed at expanding eligibility for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program by redefining what constitutes a public assistance household. 

This change, detailed in the recently published final rule titled "Expand the Definition of a Public Assistance Household," is set to take effect on September 30, 2024.

Starting this fall, the definition of a public assistance household will be broadened to include households that receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments as well as those where not all members are beneficiaries of public assistance. 

This adjustment is expected to make it easier for more individuals to qualify for SSI benefits, which are crucial for covering essential needs such as housing, food, and medical care.

Impact on SSI Recipients

The updated rule modifies how public assistance households are identified, specifically in contexts where not every member is receiving aid. Previously, all members needed to be recipients of public assistance for a household to be recognized as such. 

With the new rule, a household only needs to have at least one SSI applicant or recipient and one other member receiving certain types of public income-maintenance payments. 

This change will likely increase some SSI payments and reduce the reporting burden for many recipients.

Martin O'Malley, Commissioner of Social Security, said the new rule supports the agency's commitment to removing barriers that prevent vulnerable populations from accessing necessary benefits.

"By including SNAP among the recognized programs and simplifying our policies, we are promoting greater equity in our programs," said O'Malley.

This rule marks the first time SNAP has been added to the SSA's public assistance household definition since its inception in 1980, reflecting a shift towards more accurately representing the current array of means-tested programs in the U.S. 

The SSA is also taking other steps to enhance the SSI program, including the exclusion of food value from SSI benefit calculations and expanding a rental subsidy exception from seven states to a nationwide policy.