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‘I want to be able to save money:’ SSI recipient urges Congress to raise asset limits

Emily Demko takes pride in her work as an artist and especially enjoys making canvas paintings.

The 18-year-old balances creating her art while also working two other jobs in her hometown of Albany, Ohio.

Emily also happens to have Down Syndrome and receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits each month.

Since she receives SSI, Emily is limited on how many hours she can work and how many paintings she can sell because of the asset limits established for SSI recipients in 1984.

Currently, Emily can’t have more than $2k in her savings account.

“Once you hit $2k and one penny then she automatically loses eligibility for Social Security,” said her mother, Margaret Demko. “It’s completely outdated.”

The Demkos came to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday as lawmakers unveiled a new bipartisan proposal aimed at changing that.

The Savings Penalty Elimination Act would raise the asset limit from $2k for individuals to $10k, and from $3k for married couples to $20k.

“I want to be able to save money in my own bank account,” said Emily. “I want to be able to do all the same things that every adult does.”

The bill is being introduced in the Senate and the House, with co-sponsors of both parties.

“The government shouldn’t punish people for wanting to do the right thing and save money by taking away the benefits they rely on to live,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a sponsor of the Senate bill.

“It’s an easy fix, encourages work, allows savings and gets people out of poverty,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), a co-sponsor of the bill.

The Demko family says the measure would help make sure Emily has enough savings in case she ever faces an emergency.

“My biggest worry is as her father and I, as we age, and things happen and she’s living alone, what if the roof fails? What if plumbing fails?” said Margaret Demko.

No word yet on when the bill could be taken up for a full vote in the House or Senate.

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