Do I Have to Pay Back All the Cash Assistance I Got From Welfare When I Get My SSI?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) takes time to review your application and qualifications for Supplemental Security Income, and if you claim SSI based on disability, the review goes to the disability determination service. If you need assistance immediately, the SSA may send you to a state agency such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for help. The administration may approve retroactive benefits for your SSI back to the date of application.


State Benefits

State benefits are considered "interim assistance payments" if you receive state assistance while waiting for SSI benefits to start. You may qualify for these funds only while you wait for SSI benefits. Your state or local government may have other emergency funds available as well. The SSA returns these payments to the government agency that assists you while you wait for benefits from the first payments you receive from SSI. It takes the amount you received from your back payment or retroactive payment and returns it to the agency. Some states supplement SSI benefits with state funds, and these funds do not require repayment.


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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

If you receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps, you do not have to pay back any of the cash SNAP benefits you receive while waiting for SSI. If you live in California, your benefits will stop as soon as the SSA approves your SSI claim. In other states, your nutrition assistance benefits continue for as long as you qualify.



TANF is a state program with eligibility based on income. The SSA usually turns to TANF for interim assistance payments and returns these payments with the first SSI check. Most states do not allow SSI recipients to receive TANF concurrently. If your state allows TANF with SSI, Social Security deducts funds you receive from TANF from your SSI benefits. This occurs because TANF uses block grant federal funds. States that have separate state programs for assistance to low-income families may provide assistance without SSI offset.



If you earn income while receiving SSI benefits, you must report earned income in excess of $65 each month. Unearned income such as TANF, Social Security or veterans' benefits offset SSI benefits after $20 exemption each month. If you continue to receive these unearned funds with your SSI benefits, the SSA offsets your SSI payment by the amount you receive less $20 each month. As an example, if you receive $200, $20 does not apply. Subtract $180 from your SSI benefit for the month to determine the amount you receive from SSI two months forward. SSI payment calculations apply two months after you report the income.