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Supreme Court docket choice hurts Puerto Ricans who want federal advantages

The U.S. Supreme Court docket in Washington, D.C. Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Pictures Efforts to develop a federal…

By Staff , in Social Security , at April 22, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court docket in Washington, D.C.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Pictures

Efforts to develop a federal program for disabled, aged and blind People suffered a setback on Thursday when the Supreme Court docket dominated that Puerto Rico residents needs to be excluded from receiving these advantages.

This system, referred to as Supplemental Security Revenue, or SSI, at the moment gives month-to-month checks to about 7.7 million People who qualify. However as a result of it’s geared toward folks with low revenue and few assets, this system comes with strict revenue and asset restrict guidelines.

Some Congressional lawmakers have proposed updating this system, which has rules that haven’t been up to date because it was created in 1972.

Final yr, the Home of Representatives included one key change — increasing SSI to residents of U.S. territories — when it handed Democrats’ Construct Again Higher bundle.

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That change would come with residents of Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. Residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are already eligible to obtain SSI advantages.

Nonetheless, that laws has since stalled on Capitol Hill.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court docket upheld the federal regulation that denies Puerto Rico residents entry to SSI advantages. A decrease appeals court docket had beforehand dominated that excluding Puerto Rico residents from SSI was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court docket’s ruling is an enormous blow to the estimated 436,000 folks in Puerto Rico who could doubtlessly qualify for SSI, in response to Kathleen Romig, director of Social Security and incapacity coverage on the Middle on Finances and Coverage Priorities.

“It might make an enormous distinction to those folks, as a result of it is people who find themselves by definition poor and have very low financial savings,” Romig stated. “Even having a couple of hundred {dollars} extra a month might make an essential distinction.”

Puerto Rico residents could entry a program referred to as Assist to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled, or AABD, although it’s a extra restricted than SSI, Romig famous.

As a result of Puerto Rico residents pay payroll taxes that assist fund Social Security and Medicare, those that have sufficient earnings to qualify might also declare Social Security incapacity advantages.

Nonetheless, SSI is funded by basic income, which suggests Puerto Rico residents are usually not essentially instantly contributing to this system, a problem that got here up in the course of the Supreme Court docket’s debate.

That program was designed exactly for individuals who can’t pay taxes, as a result of they can not work, by definition.

Sergio M. Marxuach

coverage director on the Middle for a New Financial system

Justice Brett Kavanaugh famous in his choice that as a result of Puerto Rico residents are usually not held to the identical necessities as U.S. mainland residents with regard to federal, property or excise taxes, they are often handled in a different way.

“The issue with that evaluation on this context is that program was designed exactly for individuals who can’t pay taxes, as a result of they can not work, by definition,” stated Sergio M. Marxuach, coverage director on the Middle for a New Financial system, a non-profit, non-partisan suppose tank in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

This system was designed for individuals who qualify for it, whether or not they stay in Montana, New York or San Juan, Marxuach stated, because of the reality they’re disabled, aged or blind.

“Should you go to the Congressional intent, it was exactly to assist that group of individuals throughout the nation,” Marxuach stated. “Utilizing that as a rationale foundation for the totally different therapy doesn’t make any sense.”

With out entry to SSI, some Puerto Rico residents could fall by the cracks relating to federal authorities advantages.

“There’s this hole for individuals who do not have a qualifying work historical past for Social Security, who qualify just for low advantages and would have supplemental advantages by SSI,” Romig stated.

Furthermore, as a result of receiving SSI advantages typically robotically qualifies recipients for Medicaid, it might make it tougher for Puerto Rico residents to entry well being protection, as properly, she stated.

“It is inequitable to have Americans, simply due to their handle, lose entry to an essential profit,” Romig stated of SSI.

There’s additionally a “racial and ethnic inequity that’s current while you exclude territories versus the mainland,” she stated.

Rebecca Vallas, a incapacity advocate and senior fellow at The Century Basis, a progressive suppose tank, additionally expressed disappointment with the choice.

“The Supreme Court docket’s choice to proceed the nation’s lengthy, racist historical past of excluding Puerto Rico residents from the SSI program is as shameful as it’s disappointing,” Vallas stated in a press release.

“America shouldn’t be within the enterprise of discriminating in opposition to its personal residents — particularly relating to one thing as basic as eligibility for survival revenue packages like SSI,” she stated.

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