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Pennsylvania public assistance.

Low income families in Pennsylvania can receive public assistance from the Department of Public Welfare. Several services and programs can provide cash assistance, advice, and resources to the less fortunate in the state. Find how to get help with paying for basic needs, including medical bills, housing, food, and more by state and county below.

Free government grants and cash assistance

Burial and Cremation Services Payment – Cash assistance can be provided for paying for cremation and burial costs by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. This program can help individuals who were found to be eligible for cash assistance prior to death, people who have received Supplemental Security Income or SSI, and some qualified nursing home residents.

Pennsylvania emergency cash assistance – Various public programs are offered for people who can’t work because of a disability, or who do not earn enough money to support themselves or their family. Some families may be qualified to receive short term cash assistance from the Department of Public Welfare.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) may be offered to qualified individuals. This resource is focused on people who are trying to move to independence, and it is really focused on low income people who need help to become independent, including pregnant woman, children, and others. TANF is technically a short term cash assistance program.

The Pennsylvania Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program can help individuals pay for their basic needs, such as food, medical bills, housing, and similar items. A focus is on pregnant women and/or dependent children and other relatives who live with them. However others may benefit from this public program. Find more details on cash assistance in Pennsylvania.

General Assistance is a little more wide ranging. It is paid for directly by the state of Pennsylvania. The Department of Public Welfare's financial assistance program can help certain individuals and lower income families who do not qualify for the federally funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefit which is referenced above. General assistance can provide funds and financial assistance with a focus on those who have a temporary disability or a medical emergency.




Self-sufficiency can be provided by the Diversion and Moving to Independence program which is offered by the state. This resource is dedicated to helping Pennsylvania's low-income families and individuals become independent over the short to long term. Diversion is a way for low to moderate income families to choose short-term crisis type help rather than long-term ongoing cash assistance through the government funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

What the Diversion and Moving to Independence program can help with is some or all of the following. People who may have a medical emergency, or who lost their job or had hours cut, or some other short term crisis may be able to get help paying bills over the short term. A key to this public program is that applicants will need to expect to get back on track in a couple months.

For example, they may expect to start a new job or get through the medical emergency, and will be able to resume supporting their families and paying bills. The Pennsylvania Diversion program can help people meet their short-term needs or pay bills. A one-time lump sum cash payment can be made from this service.

The federal government Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps lower income families pay their electric and heating bills. A focus in on families with children, seniors, and the disabled. The  LIHEAP program will provide families in Pennsylvania with a grant that offers cash assistance to pay energy bills. The money is paid directly to the utility company. Another resource offered is a crisis grant for households in immediate danger of running out of oil or fuel or being without heat in general.





The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare can provide people who meet visual requirements with benefits. The State Blind Pension Program and Moving to Independence is committed to helping low-income individuals and families move to independence and self-sufficiency.

The Refugee Cash Assistance Program distributes money and other financial assistance. Resources are offered for up to eight months for state of Pennsylvania refugees who do not meet Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) requirements.

Telephone Bill Assistance Programs are available in Pennsylvania. Residents can receive lower cost phone services and therefore help with bills from the Lifeline and Link-Up program. This federal government program provides reduced telephone costs and bills to eligible lower income customers for telephone expenses.

Food Stamps, which is also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. Vouchers and cash assistance can be used to pay for food or groceries as well as a small number of approved hygiene supplies. The publicly funded SNAP program can help eligible low-income households across Pennsylvania obtain meals and more nutritious food for their family.

Benefits can be used to buy groceries or perishable food at their local grocery stores and supermarkets. If you apply and are fund to be qualified, individuals will receive a Pennsylvania Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) ACCESS Card. This is what is needed in order to pay for the groceries at your local store. There are also a wide variety of other federal government USDA food programs for the poor.

Legal aid may be coordinated as well. If you are a qualified resident of Pennsylvania and need help with a non-criminal legal matter and cannot afford an attorney, the department partners with and has information on organizations that can offer free legal services. Continue with Pennsylvania free legal assistance.

Pregnant women, men, and teens can get help from family planning services in Pennsylvania. This program provides services, free information and counseling on medical and health care for women, moms, men, and teens. Almost all of the services offered from this public program are free or low-cost, and all advice and information is confidential.

Homeless Assistance Programs - This includes emergency rental and mortgage assistance for people facing eviction or foreclosure. The state of Pennsylvania may also have money to pay for utilities or security deposits if that could help with solving your crisis. Other housing type services include public shelters to keep people out of the cold. After someone stay in a shelter, Bridge Housing , or short term/transitional housing, can allow someone to stay in a government subsidized apartment for up to 18 months. Also receive ongoing case management throughout this process.







Subsidies for child and day care are provided. For families that are working or attending job training, Pennsylvania may pay for a portion of your child care needs. The state relies on federal government funding and grants to provide this resource and there is usually a waiting list. The program is very limited in scope however the assistance provided can help parents attend school, work, or training sessions. Read more on Pennsylvania assistance for free child care.

Other services offered include Domestic Violence Crisis and Prevention, Public Health Care/Medical Assistance (including Medicaid), Long Term Care Services, and Pharmacy.

Public health and medical care programs

Pennsylvania Medical Assistance and Health Care can help pay for health care costs and medical bills. This service is also administered by the Department of Public Welfare (DPW). State residents may be able to access quality, yet affordable, medical and dental services. Some of the care may be from public clinics, and other medical services are provided by private professionals. Specifically services include:

Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening and Treatment; Special Pharmaceutical Benefits Program; Healthy Beginnings for Pregnant Women; Mental Health/Behavioral Health Services; Medicare Part D Drug Coverage Information; AIDS/HIV Information and Services; Family Planning Services; Substance Abuse Services; SelectPlan for Women; Help with Medical Appointments if your English is Limited; Sign Language Interpreter Services for Medical Appointments; Office of Long-Term Living; Long Term Care Services; Medical Assistance Transportation Program; Special Kids Network; SelectPlan for Women Provider Search. Or learn more about public health care clinics in Pennsylvania.

Mental Health Care – Several mental health resources are administered through your local county Mental Health/Mental Retardation (MH/MR) program offices. Your local office partners with doctors and medical providers in your area, and health care is offered by your local hospital or provider agencies. These local providers need to enter into a contract with the county MH/MR office. Each county will have its own criteria that needs to be met, and the county MH/MR office will assesses the need for treatment or other services, determines a person's eligibility for cash assistance, and medical professionals can make referrals to appropriate programs and doctors to fit treatment and/or meet other service needs.

Assistance from Pennsylvania Cities and Counties

The main counties and cities are below. They can help the low income, unemployed, and others who may be in a crisis. The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare can be reached at 1-800-692-7462.

Allegheny County

Berks County

Bucks County

Chester County

Cumberland County





Erie County

Luzerne County


York County


By Jon McNamara

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