Residents of Pennsylvania can turn to the state for help through a number of assistance programs. These statewide programs are funded through a mix of federal and state revenue. In most cases, they help low-income families afford basic needs and services, providing food, health care and financial assistance. Below, we have provided a brief description of what each program does and where to turn to get help.
Children’s Health Insurance Program
This Department of Health and Human Services program provides medical coverage to the state’s kids under 19 and to expecting mothers. CHIP coverage is available for families that earn too much income to be covered by Medicaid but still have trouble affording medical insurance from private sources. While many receive this coverage for free, you may have to pay a small premium depending on income. You can find out if you qualify and apply online through Compass or call 1-800-986-5437.
Head Start programs help the state’s youngest residents better prepare themselves for the start of elementary school. Programs are provided for both children and parents of low-income families. Head Start is for kids age 3 to 5. Early Head Start is for pregnant women and children under 3. To find the program nearest you, use the Head Start locator on the federal program’s website.
Energy and Weatherization Assistance
Low-income households have several assistance programs in the State of Pennsylvania to help with utility costs. These provide emergency assistance during the coldest winter months and weatherize homes to improve energy efficiency.
- Energy Conservation and Weatherization Program – This offers assistance to households at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines. Those helped through the program have their homes properly insulated to lower heating and cooling costs. Services are provided statewide through organizations and agencies that provide weatherization. Check this agency list to find out which one handles this in your county.
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program – This program is a winter program that offers regular and emergency assistance to households struggling with heating costs. Energy assistance grants can help you fix faulty heating equipment and avoid termination of service. Apply through Pennsylvania’s Compass website.
Medicaid is a federal and state partnership managed inside Pennsylvania by the Department of Public Welfare. It provides medical coverage for low-income Pennsylvanians including those that are pregnant, caring for a disabled child or other children under the age of 19. You can apply online through Compass or visit your County Assistance Office. You can also download the application from the DPW. If you have any questions about Medicaid, call the Pennsylvania Welfare Helpline at 1-800-692-7462.
School Nutrition Programs
Pennsylvania has four programs that feed the state’s school children. These are provided by the Department of Education to the kids of low-income families, ensuring that the value of nutrition is taught at an early age and that good nutritious meals are available to every child enrolled in the public schools. To apply for any of these programs, simply contact your child’s school.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
What was formerly called Food Stamps is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. In Pennsylvania, this is provided by the Department of Public Welfare. This helps low-income families access a supply of nutritious food through a debit card payment system called the Pennsylvania EBT Access Card. You can apply for SNAP through the Compass website or by visiting your County Assistance Office. For additional information about this program, call the Welfare Helpline at 1-800-692-7462.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Pennsylvania provides a safety net to pregnant women and families with children under the age of 19 through TANF. To receive temporary assistance, you must be unemployed, about to lose your job or work for very low pay. To apply for TANF, visit the Compass website or visit your County Assistance Office. For more information about the program, call the Welfare Helpline at 1-800-692-7462.
If you have lost your job, you might be eligible to receive unemployment payments as long as you are not at fault for becoming unemployed. To qualify for benefits you must have worked in the last 12 to 18 months. You must seek work and be available to start a job while receiving unemployment benefits. To file a claim, visit the Department of Labor and Industry’s website. For any questions or information about unemployment, call 1-888-313-7284.
Women, Infants and Children
Pennsylvania’s Department of Health provides the state’s WIC program. This is a supplemental foods program that provides support to low-income pregnant women and those with small children 5 years old or younger. It also provides education about nutrition and breast-feeding and helps locate health care services. Call toll-free 1-800-942-9467 to find out if you qualify for WIC and to find out where to apply for help.
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