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Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides benefits to millions of people in the United States. Within that group are more than 1 million children who have severe disabilities and hail from low-income households – those with little or no income and resources.

Although an estimated 11 million U.S. children have special needs, few of them meet SSI’s stringent eligibility requirements. To qualify for benefits, the child must have a physical or mental condition that seriously limits his or her activities. In addition, the condition must last or expect to last at least a year or result in death.

Severely impaired mental, physical conditions

SSI disability benefits reach only the most severely impaired and lowest income of the country’s children. Many of them just don’t qualify because their conditions aren’t considered severe enough and their family’s income and assets exceed the SSI limits.

Mental and physical conditions vary for which a child may qualify for SSI disability benefits. Here are some of them:

  • Mental conditions: autism, intellectual disability, schizophrenia/bipolar disorder
  • Physical conditions: cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, blindness and cancer

Benefits pay for rent, food, disability-related expenses

Without these SSI benefits that average about $650 per month, more children with disabilities would be living in poverty. The money is definitely not a windfall, but helps families in their attempts to provide as stable of a household environment as possible.

These benefits help families pay for rent, food and disability-related expenses that are not available in schools or covered by insurance. This list may include specialized therapy or even diapers for older children.

Kentucky has fourth-highest poverty rate in country

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Kentucky had the fourth-highest poverty rate among U.S. states in 2016. An estimated 18.5 percent of Kentuckians lived in poverty. Within that group, 25 percent of Kentuckians under 18 lived in poverty. The poverty rate was higher among children 5 years old and younger as 27 percent of them lived below the poverty line.

Looking at these numbers, you see how important SSI disability benefits can be for children and families who qualify. We know that regions with the highest child poverty rates have a great number of children with disabilities who qualify for SSI.