April 23, 2012
Save General Assistance
Download the GA Issue Brief in PDF form
General Assistance (GA) is a program within the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) that currently serves 68,000 Pennsylvanians. A true safety-net program, for only those who have absolutely no where else to turn, GA provides $205 a month to individuals who are experiencing one of the following struggles:
• Temporarily or permanently disabled
• Domestic violence survivors who have just recently fled abuse
• Receiving treatment for drug or alcohol abuse (receive $205 for 9 months only)
• Children living with an unrelated adult
For those experiencing such turmoil, GA is a critical bridge to stability. With even a small sum, GA recipients are able to rent a room, access transportation for job interviews, or live with a neighbor instead of in foster care. They are able to maintain their dignity. Despite the fact that GA assists Pennsylvanians in dire need and saves taxpayers money by preventing the need for more costly services, the Corbett Administration has proposed to eliminate GA from the 2012-2013 budget.
The ELCA’s Commitment to Livelihood for All:
“Outrage over the plight of people living in poverty is a theme throughout the Bible…. It is not poor people themselves who are the problem, but their lack of access to the basic necessities of life. Without such, they cannot maintain their human dignity. Strong themes in Scripture indicate that people are poor because of circumstances that have afflicted them, or because of greed and unjust practices”
“Livelihood designates our means of subsistence or how we are supported economically. This occurs through paid jobs, self-employment, business ownership, and accumulated wealth, as well as through support of family, community networks, and government assistance.”
“We call for: Public policies that ensure adequate social security… and Government to provide adequate income assistance and related services for citizens who are unable to provide for their livelihood through employment.”
Quotes from A Social Statement on Economic Life: Sufficient Sustainable Livelihood for All, 1999.
What You Can Do:
LAMPa is asking advocates to contact their state representatives and state senators and ask them NOT to eliminate the General Assistance program.
Below is some additional information you can share with them:
Eliminating GA would be penny wise and pound foolish
The Corbett administration estimates that eliminating GA would save approximately $150 million each budget year. However, these savings will be far exceeded by the additional costs to support those who will require more services once GA is eliminated. The costs of homeless shelters ($1,050 a month), foster care ($600 to $1,800), incarceration ($2,750) and state psychiatric hospitals ($20,500) will add up quickly. If just 18% of current GA recipients end up using a homeless shelter, the Commonwealth will lose more many than we will save.
GA provides temporary assistance for people in transition
Like many other public assistance programs, the majority of benefit recipients are not on GA for life. In fact, victims of domestic violence and those receiving substance abuse treatment (2 of the 4 eligibility categories!) are only eligible for 9 months of GA benefits – a total of $2,460. Those who are temporarily disabled no longer receive GA when they are healthy and able to go back to work. Finally, those with longer term disabilities are usually only on GA for the amount of time it takes them to apply for and receive their federal Social Security Disability payments – and the federal government reimburses Pennsylvania for those costs (to the tune of $26 million a year). General Assistance serves as a temporary bridge towards a sustainable livelihood.
The consequences to human dignity are not worth the potential savings
Without General Assistance, vulnerable Pennsylvanians will no longer be protected. Battered women and children will remain in abusive homes. Disabled and mentally ill adults will lose their housing. Orphaned children, or those whose parents are incarcerated, will be placed in foster care rather than with friends who have known and loved them their whole lives.
For more information, please visit http://pacaresforall.org or contact the LAMPa staff.