Over the years, Congress has added a new type of widow benefit for disabled widows and modified the two original types of benefits by, among other things, making them gender neutral and allowing surviving divorced spouses to be eligible under certain conditions.4 Nevertheless, policymakers from the 1930s would recognize much of the structure of benefits paid at the start of 2010 and much of the current policy debate surrounding widow benefits. As was the case then, most of the current policy discussions focus on the adequacy of benefits and the related topic of the economic well-being of widows. This article examines these twin themes and provides policymakers context for understanding the history of Social Security widow benefits and the policy discussions likely to occur in the future. To provide context, it uses data from Social Security administrative records and federal household surveys, projections from a microsimulation model, and the recent research literature on widows and Social Security. The next section of the article presents general information on current benefits and beneficiaries, followed by detailed sections on each type of benefit and group of beneficiaries, a policy discussion, and a conclusion.
The economic status of child-in-care widows, in broad terms, quite likely parallels that of aged widows: Social Security benefits prevent material hardship for a large percentage of the population, but the economic effects of widowhood leave overall income at modest levels. The driving policy issue in the future for child-in-care widows may be less about the adequacy of benefit levels (total family benefits are relatively high) and more about underlying program rules on marriage and work. Very large numbers of children in the United States (and many other developed countries) are born out of wedlock, and the mothers of surviving children may increasingly not meet the relationship requirements for child-in-care widow benefits. Policymakers may judge this appropriate (for example, if they believe marriage reflects dependence on the worker and therefore should be the basis for paying a benefit on his or her work record), but over time it will leave an increasing number of families with surviving children in which the head of the household does not receive Social Security. Further, marriage is a requirement for eligibility, but it is also a condition for termination of benefits. Aged widows and disabled widows can remarry and retain their benefits, but child-in-care widows cannot. Finally, with regard to work decisions, it is useful to note that the earnings test for aged beneficiaries does not reduce lifetime benefits under the program (Biggs 2008), but child-in-care widows face permanent losses in benefits because of the test as their benefits are not recomputed at a later date.
Perhaps more so than with the other two types of widow benefits, disabled-widow benefits were introduced into the system with the clear intent of potentially modifying them over time. As part of the large-scale solvency reforms of 1983, Congress enacted some program liberalizations that affected small but vulnerable groups including disabled widows. The 1983 and 1990 changes to these benefits are instructive as they reflect policymakers' view to create a benefit structure that follows principles applied to the much larger group of disabled beneficiaries (disabled workers). Before the change, disabled-widow benefits were actuarially reduced if claimed before age 60. After 1983, the reductions were removed making the benefit more similar to disabled-worker benefits where no actuarial reductions are applied. In 1990, the benefits were again made similar to the disabled-worker benefit structure by applying the same legal definition of disability for the two types of benefits. If policymakers want to further modify the benefit, changes to the early eligibility age and the current benefit rate are possibilities. Disabled-worker benefits are paid because of disability regardless of age, but disabled-widow benefits are not available before age 50. After the amendments of 1983, the benefit rate for disabled widows was set at 71.5 percent of the PIA, but disabled workers receive a benefit equal to the full PIA.
The FHA has several down payment assistance programs geared toward single moms who want to buy a house but may not have the funds needed to meet their lender's minimum requirements. HUD also has other options for single moms who don't have any savings or assets available for a down payment.
This program makes grants available to state and local governments for affordable housing projects that benefit low-income families. To qualify for this program, you must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, not default on any federal loan or mortgage; and meet income limits set by HUD's Office of Housing and Office of Public and Indian Housing (HOPI). The income limits vary based on family size, household composition, and location. 59ce067264