Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
PA reinstates general assistance cash grant program
Pennsylvanians once again can apply for General Assistance, a monthly cash program that aided the poorest individuals in the commonwealth before it was eliminated by the Legislature and then-Gov. Tom Corbett in 2012.
Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the law that repealed the program, Act 80, saying the legislative process used to pass the bill was unconstitutional.
The program gave $205 monthly to about 60,000 people, many of whom were waiting for Social Security disability determinations.
The state’s Department of Human Services is working to implement the court decision, the agency said in a statement.
“We are currently working to update internal systems and train staff to determine eligibility and process general assistance cash benefits. Eligible Pennsylvanians will start receiving general assistance as soon as all updates are completed,” according to a statement.
Those approved for the program would not receive any benefits until September. The program cost the state about $150 million annually.
Steve Miskin, a spokesman for state House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, questioned how the administration would pay for the program.
“Has the governor looked at the fiscal impact?” he said.
Applications will be accepted either online or on paper at local county assistance offices. Information will be posted in the county assistance offices and on the state website. The DHS toll-free helpline is 1-800-692-7462.
“There are a lot of people who are really in desperate straits, many of whom are homeless, who will find this to be a tremendous relief,” said Richard Weishaupt, a senior attorney at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, who litigated the case against the state.
“This is great for people who have a temporary disability and need some assistance now, or who are struggling with domestic violence … anyone who is in a drug or alcohol treatment program,” said Trish Romano, director of Wood Street programs for Community Human Services in Downtown Pittsburgh
The program was critical for single adults without dependent children who are in many cases ineligible for other forms of assistance, she said.
“The people who need these benefits need them urgently,” said Ken Regal, executive director of anti-hunger advocacy group Just Harvest.
While county assistance office staff should be able to answer questions, the agency will consider any applications that were submitted since June 18 — 30 days before the court’s July 18 decision, the Department of Human Services said.
Originally from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via United Way’s Common Good Newsletter.
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