A fear shared by thousands of needy Pennsylvanians will become a reality on July 1, the day that the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare — under Gov. Tom Corbett’s new budget — will eliminate the General Assistance Program.
According to an internal DPW operations memo obtained by several community groups, non-profits and politicians, the cash assistance program will end for individuals in the following categories: 18–21-years-old and are enrolled in a secondary school and expecting to graduate by the time he or she is 21; children under the age of 21 who are not eligible for Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF); anyone who lives in a two-parent household with children under 13, or 13 and older with disabilities; those who are either temporarily or permanently disabled; non-parental caretakers of children under 13, or 13 and over and disabled; those undergoing drug/alcohol treatment that precludes employment; pregnant women who are ineligible for TANF, and victims of domestic violence.
“Individuals will not be able to apply for General Assistance cash after July 1, 2012. All applications received in the month of June 2012, even if processed in July, will be processed with a closing date of June 30, 2012,” read a portion of the DPW operations memo. “An essential person is a general assistance-cash eligible individual living in a TANF household and who is related to a TANF child. Effective July 1, 2012, the system will no longer allow these essential persons to be created.”
The new guidelines also make job searching a condition of eligibility for future TANF/General Assistance recipients, requiring them to apply for at least three jobs a week. Medical assistance for these individuals will remain unchanged.
“As a condition for eligibility for TANF and General Assistance-related Needy Nonmoney Payment [NNP] medical assistance, an applicant who is not employed at least 20 hours a week is required to apply for at least three jobs per week while the application is pending, unless the applicant is exempt from work requirements with good cause,” read the memo. “The applicant is required to provide verification of these job applications before any assistance may be authorized.
“If all other pending verification is received within the 30 day application period, TANF of GA-related NNP medical assistance cannot be opened without proof that the required job applications have been completed.”
The decision to cut this program will save the commonwealth roughly $150 million, according to Corbett’s budget.
This plan essentially rips a lifeline from the state’s most at-risk citizens, said State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas in a scathing letter Thomas sent to Corbett. There are eight housing developments in Thomas’ district, and the majority of those tenants will be hit the hardest.
“As you know, this decision will involve an overwhelming number of citizens, children, and victims of domestic violence who are considered disabled,” Thomas wrote in his letter, noting that those affected also didn’t receive advance notice of the change. “I am extremely troubled by this decision in the light of a myriad of economic, social and medical circumstances which face people today more than any other time in the Commonwealth or the United States.
“I am more troubled by the fact this decision is being made in absence of a lifeline for people who have no other resources.”
Thomas isn’t the only person outraged by the move, nor is he the only one doing something about it. PA Cares For All — a 100-plus member strong coalition to save general assistance, has started a petition drive and offers resources on its website for those affected by this change. And Community Legal Services has drafted both a letter outlining the changes, and a document to help in filing for benefits.
Thomas’ letter pleads with the governor to rethink the cuts.
“If you cannot in good conscience reconsider, please consider maintaining General Assistance for children and individuals who are disabled until they have been referred and approved by the SSD or SSI programs,” Thomas’ letter read. “The disabled population is not only without resources, but are also faced with physical, and or mental problems that aggravate their everyday challenges.”