Pennsylvania Shuts Down Its Safety Net of Last Resort

By Liz Schott, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Originally published at the Off the Charts Blog

Pennsylvania ended cash assistance today for very poor residents who cannot work and don’t qualify for other assistance, joining many other states that have scaled back or eliminated their General Assistance programs even as the need has grown.

Roughly 60,000 childless adults (and the adult heads of some families) whom the state considers unemployable because of a disability or for certain other reasons — they are elderly, escaping domestic violence, or caring for a disabled family member, for example — got about $200 a month from the program.

These modest benefits helped many residents avoid or escape homelessness, get needed medical care, and otherwise meet basic daily needs. You can hear some of their stories in this brief video, which a coalition of groups produced as part of an unsuccessful effort to save the program.

Nationally, the erosion in General Assistance programs has been proceeding for more than two decades, as our major report last fall detailed. These cutbacks continued during and after the recent severe recession, despite high unemployment and the growing number of people who have run out of unemployment insurance without finding a job.

Almost every state that didn’t eliminate its General Assistance program provides lower benefits now than in 1998, after adjusting for inflation, as this chart from our 2011 report shows. Benefits are worth less than one-quarter of the poverty line in most states.

By and large, the federal government has left it up to states to provide basic assistance to childless adults who need it. States have never provided much support for this group, and the continued weakening of General Assistance programs means that more of the nation’s most vulnerable people are going to face severe hardship.

General Assistance Benefits Have Fallen in Real Terms in Nearly Every State

Comments

1 comments posted

My daughter is a single mom

My daughter is a single mom with three children 5yrs, 4yrs, and 7 months and welfare CUT her cash in the beginning of the month of July.  She just moved into a new apartment.  She was homeless.  She is now recieving Section 8 from the VA to pay most of her monthly rent.  But how is she supposed to pay her portion of the monthly rent $113.00 without any cash assistance for herself and her children.. She is still getting food stamps about $600 a month. But that does not last. She does not have a drivers license or a car and if she did, she could not afford to pay for the upkeep of owning a car.  Of course as Mom and Grandma I do what I can.  But doing what I can puts me more and more into debt. Is there anything my daughter can do, to at least get cash assistance for her children.. Luzerne County Welfare is not very helpful.  They were very happy to cut her assistance. Please help.

 

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