NCSL Call for SSI Extension

September 28, 2010

 

The Honorable Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader
522 Hart SOB 
Washington, D.C. 20510

                       

  The Honorable Mitch McConnell
 Senate Minority Leader
 361A Russell SOB
 Washington, D.C. 20510


Re: SSI Extension for Elderly and Disabled Refugees  

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell: 

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) strongly supports the important bipartisan efforts to extend Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for elderly and disabled refugees. It is important that eligible refugees, asylees, and humanitarian migrants not lose their SSI benefits on Thursday, October 1. Extending SSI for one year for these elderly and disabled refugees serves humanitarian purposes and removes a cost shift to states. States continue to address sizeable budget gaps that have compelled state lawmakers to make dramatic programmatic and revenue changes in order to ensure balanced general fund budgets. 

Currently, when an elderly or disabled refugee flees persecution and comes to the United States, their eligibility for financial support from the SSI program is limited to allow time to navigate the citizenship process. The cut off for refugees was put in place under the assumption that they would become citizens and be eligible for continued SSI benefits. This group of vulnerable elderly and disabled face significant barriers to naturalization. 

This important extension will increase the time period that elderly and disabled refugees are eligible for SSI benefits and would restore benefits for roughly 5,600 of these most vulnerable refugees. State legislators have long supported the federal efforts to assist individuals and families forced to flee their native land in fear for their personal safety. However, the federal government determines who is a refugee and provides SSI to prevent the states from bearing the unfair burden of providing for the health and welfare of these individuals when they are settled in the states.     

NCSL’s Refugee Assistance and Immigration Reform policy has long called for adequate federal support to avoid a cost-shift to states. Extending SSI benefits is a positive step towards addressing the needs of the many humanitarian refugees who find sanctuary in the United States each year. Thank you for moving this extension forward.  

Sincerely,

Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos 
Washington House of Representatives 
Co- Chair, NCSL Executive Committee    
Task Force On Immigration and the States       

CC: Members of the U.S. Senate          

*Letter also sent to U.S. House Leaders. See letter here.