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Pennsylvania Reinstates General Assistance Program

OBL is delighted to forward the following message from Richard Weishaupt, the Director of Community Legal Services in Philadelphia:

It is with great thanks that I can say that Pennsylvania has reinstated the General Assistance program.  As you may recall, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously held that Act 80, which eliminated the GA program, had been enacted in a manner that violated the Pennsylvania Constitution.  It has taken several months for the state to revise their computer programs and retrain their staff, but they have been accepting applications while they were reprogramming.  Finally, eligible Pennsylvanians began getting benefits today, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Payments began being authorized beginning Monday, 11/19, and benefits began appearing on people’s Access Cards today, the morning of 11/20.  We began getting reports of this happy news a few hours later.  We have been told that the process of granting benefits to the folks who have already applied will continue for the next few days.  Initial payments should be completed by the end of November.  People who finished their applications a month ago will get a month of benefits ($205 in most counties, including Philadelphia and Allegheny County) while others who finished the application and turned in all of the needed paperwork in August or September will get more.  Those who only recently applied will get less.

People whose applications have been approved will be sent a notice starting around 11/20 saying they are eligible and should check to see if there are benefits on their Card.  If they don’t have an EBT Access Card, they should contact the CAO to get one, but anyone with food stamps should already have one.  People who are approved for GA and already have Medicaid but not Food Stamps will need to get a new card from the CAO.

Here are the numbers we have received from the Department: As of last Friday (11/9) 2458 people have been found eligible and their payments will be issued this week and next week.

Another 6049 cases are pending, meaning something else needs to happen – they need to provide verification, including Employability Assessment Forms (EAF) and/ or they may need to be interviewed. They should check their mail or contact the Department if it is not clear what they need to do.  They can check on the status of their cases by going to the County Assistance Office or by calling the Customer Service Center (215-560-7226 for Philadelphia, and 1-877-395-8930 for the rest of the state) .

13,748 people have been found ineligible – we’re not sure why.  They may not have submitted verification or kept an appointment or who knows what.  They should have gotten or will soon get a letter saying why they were turned down.  They can appeal within 30 days of the date of the turn down.  They can also try to fix the problem by bringing in the needed verification or asking for an appointment.  Under Department rules they can “refresh” their application within 60 days but they will only get benefits back to the day that they provide needed verification or complete their interview.  In either case they should act quickly.  People who live in Philadelphia can contact Community Legal Services (215-227-2400) or Philadelphia Legal Assistance (215-981-3800) for help. People who live in other counties can contact their local legal aid program for help—information is available at https://palegalaid.net.

More detailed information and copies of Departmental policy can be found on the Community Legal Services of Philadelphia website.  www.clsphila.org/GA .  A copy of the most recent DHS policy will be on the CLS webpage shortly.