Pennsylvania cash assistance programs.

There are multiple cash assistance programs in Pennsylvania, and each of them is focused on addressing a certain need. But no matter the source of the funds, the money will only be for low income families as well as those who live in or near poverty levels.

The four options available include TANF, or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This is the federal government cash program that was formerly known as welfare. There is also a resource for Refugees, Blind people, as well as the Diversion program, which provides short term financial aid and it does not last as long as TANF. More information on each of these resources is below, along with the average monthly payments, details on how to calculate benefits, application sites as well as phone numbers, and more.

No matter which Pennsylvania cash assistance program is used, the funds are only for specific costs. The state will allow money to pay for basic needs that the family needs to survive, such as housing or utility bills. The cash can also be used to pay for food, clothing, household supplies, transportation (for back and forth to a job), and similar critical expenses. This is not a resource in which the funds can be used for paying bills that the state does not approve.




Pennsylvania TANF cash assistance program

This federal and state funded resource is only for families with children under the age of 19, but it can also be used by single mothers or fathers. There is a time limited, or temporary about of money available, and it will last at most 60 months. Applications can be done using COMPASS, and the average payment in Pennsylvania is $420 per month but it depends on family size. COMPASS also includes a calculator, so each applicant can determine the amount of money they may receive.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families requires an Agreement of Mutual Responsibility plan, which touches on employment, keeping the kids in school, budgeting, and other goals. As the Pennsylvania TANF program is all about self-sufficiency. But while enrolled, the money can be used to pay for everything from rent to medical bills, shelter costs, and more.





TANF is usually not offered by itself. Most of the low-income families (or those in poverty) not only are enrolled into the Temporary Assistance for Needy program, but they also benefit from other welfare type resources. They often include Pennsylvania LIHEAP for paying heating bills, food stamps (SNAP), Medicaid, and child care vouchers as well so the parent can work. Or if the welfare recipient rents a home, the Emergency Shelter Allowance (ESA) may be an option.

To learn more on how TANF works, including details that COMPASS may not have, the Pennsylvania resident can stop in at a county assistance office. They will go over what bills can be paid, the job training or employment requirements, and more. But in general, it is for very low income families and those in poverty, and their savings accounts need have assets under $1000. TANF welfare can also help the disabled, senior citizens, and others who may live on a fixed income.

Short term cash from Diversion

While TANF can provide assistance for up to 60 months (if the family needs it), another short-term program is known as Diversion. This one only lasts for less than a year, but it operates in many of the same ways. The cash is for low income families (though the cut-off is not as extreme) that need a short term boost.

It provides a one time payment to the applicant. The money can be used to pay their bills, buy food, and whatever else is needed during that short period of time. It can hold over the family while they wait for that new job to start, or maybe they need to get over an illness. This is only an option in Pennsylvania once every 12 months.

The reason that Diversion may be considered is it does not take away, or reduce, the 60-month timeframe that TANF covers. So, it does not “penalize” the family. But note the applicant for the Pennsylvania Diversion program must have a source of income starting within a few months, and they also need to have been financially stable in the recent past. So, this cash benefit is generally for someone with kids who is not in such dire straits.

Additional benefits in Pennsylvania

There are two more cash programs available, but these are much more focused on specific needs. Both are of course for struggling and/or very low-income residents. They include the following:

Blind Pension – Anyone who is vision impaired, and legally considered to be blind, can get financial help from the state. The cash can help them pay for their medical needs, seeing eye equipment, and also household bills. A doctor must classify the applicant as such, and the State Blind Pension Program is also one of the Pennsylvania welfare programs.




Refugee Cash Assistance – If new to the state of Pennsylvania and United States, welfare will provide free cash for up to 8 months. It will help the refugees settle into the region. It also combines everything from English as Second Language classes (ESL) to job placement, low income housing, Medicaid, and more.

Case managers work to help the Refugees acclimate. As they may need to learn about schools for their kids. Or where they can afford to live. It is therefore very comprehensive.

How to apply for the cash assistance programs in Pennsylvania

All of them are done the same way, no matter which of the 4 options above someone is seeking help from. There is the online tool known as COMPASS. Or a local county welfare office can process applications, and the case managers there will go over the terms and conditions, how to calculate monthly cash payments, and other guidelines. Or a resident can dial the Pennsylvania HelpLine at 1-800-692-7462 for more details on any of these cash based assistance programs.


By Jon McNamara

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