In June 2012, Pennsylvania terminated its General Assistance program for Poor Pennsylvanians suffering with disabilities. Though this action was challenged in court, the Commonwealth Court decided in June 2013 that Pennsylvania could do so. The minimal amount of money that these people received, $205/mth, was not restored. You can read the Commonwealth Court’s decision here.
Other portions of this case, dealing with pilot programs to create block grants for funding several services in the counties instead of having those services continue to be administered by the Commonwealth were resolved against the Commonwealth. The effect of these parts of the case remain to be seen.
For our clients, this case means that for the immediate future, there will be no welfare income benefits for people with disabilities. IF YOU HAVE A DISABILITY, YOU MAY STILL QUALIFY FOR SOME WELFARE BENEFITS. You may qualify for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits from the federal government. You may also still qualify for Medical Assistance or SNAP (Foodstamp) benefits. Do not assume that you do not qualify for some type of benefit just because the state welfare benefit is gone.
For our students, the case contains an interesting description of the procedural rules that must be followed to pass a statute and the ways that legislators can work around them. Among other things, though the Pennsylvania Constitution demands that a law be introduced over three different days and contain only one subject matter, the law making process in this instance was found constitutional when the portion of the bill eliminating General Assistance only appended at the third reading in a bill that dealt with many different parts of funding public welfare benefits.