For many people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, their monthly check is not enough to make ends meet and they enroll in other public benefit programs. This is particularly true in regions with higher costs of living such as those found in Northern California. These benefits programs, such as CalFresh (the California Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefit) or Section 8 (the federal housing benefit program, are administered at varying levels of government and have distinct criteria for eligibility and program recertification. Maintaining eligibility and enrollment in the various programs can amount to a full-time job for recipients, who must expend significant time and effort to learn and navigate complex program rules, a phenomenon known as administrative burden. This experience can present challenges to psychological well-being and financial security, as individuals may struggle to engage with the bureaucracy required for otherwise beneficial program participation.
The impacts of navigating multiple benefit programs simultaneously while receiving SSI will be explored in a mixed-methods study of recipients’ experiences. In-depth, semi-structured interviews with 15-20 adult SSI recipients in Northern California will be conducted using an interview guide to assess the administrative burden of interacting with SSI alongside state- and county-based public assistance programs. This data will be analyzed alongside over 50 interviews from prior studies with the same population and contextualized with quantitative administrative data from the California Department of Social Services.