Pennsylvania cuts could affect thousands

Disabled Pittsburgh residents know far too well how difficult it is to make ends me when receiving government benefits. Now, with the new so-called welfare reform laws being considered, many throughout the state may lose the only form of income they have. Some of the individuals affected by the changes are in the middle of the appeals process to receive Social Security Disability payments or haven’t applied at all. The end result to such a drastic change in income is that those who are already struggling could end up homeless.

According to reports, the reform will result in the almost immediate revocation of state aid for more than 70,000 residents of Pennsylvania. The state Department of Public Welfare has recently elected to revoke benefits from the general assistance cash payment program, which many people need in order to afford housing, food, medicine and other essentials.

Advocates for low-income populations say the revocation will strike a hard blow in the impoverished groups throughout the state. Those include residents at the Ruth’s Place shelter for women in Wilkes-Barre, where some residents had been hoping to move into their own apartments before they got the news.

Since many affected by the potential changes have their applications for Social Security Disability payments hung up in appeal proceedings, they now have to stay in the shelter, forfeiting available housing options.

The cuts are a part of the most recent budget proposal from Gov. Tom Corbett, which calls for the elimination of $150 million from the General Assistance program, which provides assistance to adults who are too hurt to work. The people who receive the benefits have sustained serious injuries or illnesses that truly prevent them from working.

Two of the women who could be impacted by the changes worked as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), say that they spent several years on their feet, which caused their bodies to undergo substantial stress and now they can now barely walk. The women’s hips and backs are seriously damaged because of the heavy lifting activities involved in their previous careers. Even more disconcerting is the fact that the women are now forced to stay in the shelter, even as others are lining up outside to get in.

Government representatives say that the letters that announced the benefit cuts were sent out too early, and it is not certain that the financial cuts will even occur. A retraction was apparently posted on the Department of Public Welfare’s Web site, which many recipients cannot readily access. Further letters have been held until the budget is formally approved, they say.

Source: Times Leader, “Homeless and losing hope,” Steve Mocarsky, June 29, 2012

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