General Assistance: a Critical Program for Pennsylvania

LAMPa, along with organizations that serve communities across the Commonwealth,  recently signed onto a letter asking Pennsylvania lawmakers to protect General Assistance (GA). The letter, delivered to all legislators, urges them to vote against House Bill 33, which would eliminate GA in Pennsylvania, and to ensure continued funding for GA in the 2019-20 Budget.

General Assistance is a targeted program that provides a small amount of cash support – about $200 per month – to a small, targeted population of Pennsylvanians in need of immediate, temporary help. This support goes only to specific populations. The vast majority of of GA recipients are people with disabilities, and the remainder are people facing domestic violence, children being cared for by friends or neighbors, and people being treated for drug or alcohol use disorder.

GA functions like a short-term loan for many recipients. It serves as a bridge to a more stable income for people with serious disabilities who are waiting two years or longer to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. GA recipients who qualify for Social Security benefits must reimburse Pennsylvania for the GA they received while waiting to qualify.

GA is also a critical tool for combatting the opioid crisis facing our state. It provides short-term assistance for adults in full-time substance abuse treatment.

While it only provides a small amount of assistance, the GA benefit often makes the difference between homelessness and being able to rent a room. Individuals also use GA for Medicaid prescription copayments, deodorant, toilet paper, trips to the laundromat, or winter coats.

GA is a good deal for taxpayers. It is a direct investment in local economies: recipients spend the benefit in their immediate communities right away, at local grocery stores, pharmacies, and laundromats. The limited benefit is far more cost-effective than forcing counties to shoulder the costs of homelessness.

In the coming weeks or months, the General Assembly will consider a bill to eliminate GA, House Bill 33. The General Assembly will also debate ongoing funding for GA in the 2019-20 Budget. LAMPa will continue to provide updates on HB 33.  Click on this link to access a brief on GA – General Assistance Brief.

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