Without General Assistance, disabled Pennsylvanians struggle

Many Pennsylvanians relied on the state's General Assistance to pay rent and buy groceries. General Assistance provided financial help to disabled individuals, some of whom may be waiting for their Social Security disability application to be approved. The state cut funding for this program in June 2012 to save $150 million each year.

While this decision may have made financial sense for the state, it left many disabled people who are unable to work stranded without a way to pay for basic expenses like groceries or rent. Since it can take a while for Social Security disability applications to be processed, these people may be unable to cover basic costs for months or even over a year.

Now, a lawsuit has been filed against the state for improperly cutting these funds. The suit alleges the legislature did not follow necessary procedures when they cut the program's funding. For instance, the changes made to General Assistance as well as other programs were not the "original narrow purpose and language" of the bill that eliminated General Assistance. Attaching unrelated changes to a bill is "a violation of the state constitution," according to the lawyers involved in the suit.

One Pennsylvania woman who has rheumatoid arthritis as well as other illness has not been able to work since last fall. She has applied for Social Security disability benefits, but her application has not been fully processed yet. In the meantime, without General Assistance she worries about where she will live and whether she will end up homeless.

This woman is not alone in her struggle, as the program had helped 68,000 Pennsylvanians. Whenever a person faces a disability which makes working challenging or impossible, looking into available options for receiving disability benefits is important. While General Assistance is not currently an option for Pennsylvanians, those with disabilities can still apply for Social Security disability benefits.

As mentioned in the previous post, people with very severe disabilities can have their application processed more quickly due to the Compassionate Allowances system. While this time is likely very stressful, a person may be able to secure financial help quickly and the only way one will know is by learning more about the process or talking to a professional.

Source: Philly.com, "Lawsuit seeks restoration of Pennsylvania's General Assistance for the disabled," Miriam Hill, Oct. 3, 2012

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