Luzerne County public aid and welfare programs.

Thousands of local families in Luzerne County receive help from public assistance. The county as well as state of Pennsylvania administer services ranging from funds for heating bills (LIHEAP) to food vouchers (SNAP) and medical care. There are a number of benefits available in Luzerne County, and those are just a few of the examples.

For basic needs, there are two different cash assistance programs available, and they include TANF and emergency “general” assistance. The county will restrict the uses of the grants from some of these resources to some or all of the following. Note that all funds are limited, and the department of welfare will prioritize the money for people that are most at risk. This will include senior citizens or the disabled. There is also cash for families with children.

The funds are for short term only, and the use of the money will be for paying bills that lead to independence. Welfare can be used for medical costs, housing, and food. The general assistance program is for families in Luzerne County that do not qualify for TANF, and this is usually for individuals with a disability, however some exceptions can be made.

In some cases, human services will recommend that clients apply to the state of Pennsylvania Diversion and Moving to Independence program. This is for very short term needs, such as a resident that has had a reduction in their hours or is sick with a short term illness. The county may provide public aid for bills during this time frame, while the individual partners with a social worker on addressing the crisis. A one time grant will be issued in these case for paying bills and other needs.

Food assistance is available in Luzerne County as well. The Department of Public Welfare in Wilkes-Barre processes applications for both food stamps as well as WIC. Depending on different factors, the client will be either issued a voucher or an EBT debit card for meeting their nutritional needs.

The public aid from these programs can be used to help people buy groceries, food, fruits, vegetables and other healthy items at their local grocery stores. WIC focuses more on low income women and newborns, including single parents. Vouchers will help pay for formula and other items for young children.




Homeless prevention and rehousing is available across Luzerne County using state grants. The funds can be used for a wide variety of housing expenses, ranging from back rent to utility bills or the security deposit on a new home. All money will be provided contingent on the applicant gaining self-sufficiency, and in some cases the DPW will issue a loan to the family seeking help.

Medical care is met by several different public health resources. The goal is to ensure all people have some type of access to affordable dental and medical services. There is assistance for Medicare Part D, Mental Health, Long Term Care Service, Special Pharmaceutical Benefits Program, and more.

When applying for medical assistance, any eligibility will depend on income levels and whether the applicant has some form of insurance. The social workers from the state will require formal applications, and will often assign the patient a certain doctor or dentist as part of a HMO type network.

Public assistance for energy bills

In Luzerne County, the demand for financial help for paying heating bills is very high. Many families struggle during the winter months, and they can explore LIHEAP - Low-Income Home Energy Assistance as well as other options. This will help low income and working poor households keep their power and electricity on.

Families will receive either a credit on their monthly utility bills, or in some cases DPW will pay out a cash grant. Any type of public aid will also be combined with information on conservation measures so that the household can reduce their dependency. All types of fuel can be paid, such as electric, gas, propane and more.

Lifeline and Link-Up can help with phone bills. This is more of a discount rather than direct financial aid. It is administered across the state as well as county of Luzerne, and the federal government FCC is the bureaucracy that created this program.

Several other public benefits can be administered from the welfare department, ranging from child care subsides to job training and help in preventing domestic violence. The main office can be reached at (570) 826-2100, and the address is in the city of Wilkes-Barre.



By Jon McNamara

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