Pennsylvania Welfare Changes will Save an Estimated $173 Million

Act 80 of 2012 amends the Pennsylvania Welfare Code to include several reforms to Department of Public Welfare spending in the 2012-13 state budget. Act 80 will save state taxpayers an estimated $173 million, according to the fiscal note attached to the bill by eliminating programs, tightening work requirements, and giving counties more flexibility in funding programs.  Here are some of the key reforms:

Elimination of the General Assistance Cash Assistance Program

General Assistance is a state program designed to provide temporary cash and Medical Assistance to low-income individuals who do not qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In contrast to other welfare programs that receive federal funds with mandates attached, the cash assistance portion of this program is entirely state-funded.  Act 80 will end GA cash assistance on August 1, 2012. Medical Assistance for these individuals will continue.

Total Estimated Savings: $150 million.

New Work Requirements

Act 80 sets new work requirements for those collecting Medical Assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and cash assistance from TANF.

Medical Assistance beneficiaries age of 21 to 58 with large medical bills and no children at home are currently required to work at least 100 hours a month.  Act 80 extends this work requirement to those age 21 through 58 with children living at home.

SNAP and TANF beneficiaries will now be required to apply for at least three jobs per week, after the initial eight-week job search, until they are working at least 20 hours a week. These standards are currently in place for Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation program.

The code also limits the length of time an individual can be on probation for failing to fulfill work requirements.

Total Estimated Savings: $19.5 million

Human Services County Block Grant

Act 80 creates a block grant pilot program to give counties greater flexibility in how they deliver services with state funds. The program gives 20 counties autonomy to allocate state funding for seven county-based service areas: drug and alcohol programs, homelessness, behavioral health, intellectual disabilities, child welfare, general human services, and mental health services.

DPW has the ability to approve, monitor and withhold block grant funds. The law also prohibits counties from eliminating any of the seven county-based services.

The block grant will be phased in, giving participating counties the flexibility to allocate a growing percentage of state funds:

  • 20% of state appropriations in 2012-13
  • 25% in 2013-14,
  • 50% in 2014-15,
  • 75% in 2015-16, and
  • 100% in 2016-17 and beyond.

Counties may request a waiver to accelerate the phase-in and use funds as determined by local needs. There is no sunset provision or provision for expansion of the pilot program.