Successful CLS advocacy leads to major LIHEAP improvements

February 25, 2010

The Department of Public Welfare, in response to recent CLS advocacy, has improved the LIHEAP program in five significant ways.

1.  The LIHEAP program (Cash and Crisis) end date has been extended from March 15 to April 2, 2010.

2.  A $100 supplemental LIHEAP Cash payment will be made to all LIHEAP households who are eligible for a cash grant.  Households that were already approved for LIHEAP cash will automatically receive another $100 (payable, in most cases, to the energy company.)

3.  An additional $100 supplemental LIHEAP Cash payment will be made to LIHEAP households with a “vulnerable household member”.  Vulnerable is defined as households with someone who is:

  • 60 years of age  or over;
  • 5 years of age or younger; OR
  • Disabled

4.       As of February 8, 2010, DPW will accept all regulated utility termination notices, dated February 1 or later for the purpose of providing Crisis grants.  In Philadelphia, shut-off notices from PGW and PECO dated February 1 or later will be accepted as proof of a Crisis.  Until now, only applicants without heat were eligible for Crisis.

5.      Also as of February 8, 2020, households can apply for a second Crisis grant up to the maximum total amount of $400, ending the previous “one and done” rule.  A second Crisis grant may be issued to households who have previously received one of less than $400. The second grant must be accepted by the fuel vendor or utility company as sufficient to resolve the crisis. The utility must agree to accept the Crisis amount as sufficient to avert termination until May 1.

Download LIHEAP Applications in English and Spanish here.

To apply for LIHEAP Cash or Crisis, mail or take the application to:
LIHEAP District County Assistance Office (formerly Tioga)
1348 W. Sedgley Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19132
Monday – Friday
8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

You can also apply for LIHEAP Crisis by going, in person, to:

Elmwood District                                           Boulevard District
5740 Market Street, 1st Floor                   4109 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19139                                Philadelphia, PA 19124
THURSDAYS ONLY                                       TUESDAYS ONLY
8 a.m. – 4 p.m.                                                8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Faith community protests SSI cuts

February 3, 2010

Earlier, we wrote about the cuts in SSI benefits proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.  Although the cuts went into effect this week, a growing coalition continues to push to rescind the cuts and restore the money to these most vulnerable Pennsylvanians.

Recently, this issue has received some press, including a column in the Inquirer, a story by the Associated Press, an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and an editorial in the Philadelphia Daily News.

Here’s how the Inquirer’s editorial board put it:

As of this week, several hundred thousand elderly poor and disabled Pennsylvanians will be nickel-and-dimed to help balance the state’s $28 billion budget.

That’s wrong, and all the more unconscionable given a state budget that benefited fat cats while resorting to an expansion of casino gambling to raise revenue.

With such skewed priorities in place, the SSI cuts appear cruel and unnecessary. Although the cutbacks are set to start today, they should be rescinded as soon as possible.

Wouldn’t you just know, the SSI reductions only came to light recently. But now that the secret is out, there’s an understandable clamor growing from advocates and some lawmakers to remedy this insult to the elderly poor and disabled.

Tonight, the Philadelphia faith community is holding a Funeral Procession for Justice to voice opposition to the cuts.  The march begins at 5pm at Broad Street Ministries at 315 South Broad Street.  More information is here.

Pending state bill would harm low-income heating customers

February 1, 2010

This Wednesday, February 3, the Pennsylvania Senate Public Health & Welfare committee will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 1124.  CLS strongly opposes this bill in its current form.

SB 1124, if passed, would harm low-income heating customers, silence advocates, and only benefit special interests.  Among other things, SB 1124 would:

  • Prevent Pennsylvania from obtaining fair energy prices to controls costs
  • Give extra LIHEAP dollars to utilities and takes away funds from people who are actually without heat or who are about to lose heat
  • Dilute the voices of consumers on the LIHEAP Advisory Committee by giving an unprecedented amount of power to energy vendors.

For more information on this bill, check out our one-page fact sheet here.

The effect on home ownership when entering a nursing home.

February 1, 2010

The Aging & Disabilities Unit receives many calls from individuals and their families members about the effect that entering a nursing home has on the individual’s home ownership.  In the community rumors abound that in order to enter a nursing home and to have Medicaid pay for it, you will have to give your home to the state.

These rumors are wrong.  If someone owns a home and requires long-term skilled nursing home care to be paid for by Medicaid, she can preserve her home ownership for the entirety of her life.  This is true only for homes that the potential nursing home resident actually lives in, and not for non-residential property that an individual owns.  When evaluating financial eligibility for a Medicaid nursing home grant, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) will always exclude as a resource a home that the applicant lives in.  Again, to have Medicaid pay for long-term, skilled nursing care, an appplicant NEVER gives up the ownership of her home.

Unfortunately, these rumors can cause individuals to take steps that will ultimately affect a person’s eligibility for Medicaid to pay for a nursing home stay.  Sometimes, a home-owner will transfer their home to a family member thinking that this will protect their home from the state.  When this is done, it actually can prevent an individual from receiving Medicaid, unless they receive actual payment of fair market value for their home.  When an applicant applies for Medicaid, DPW will do an in depth review of an applicant’s financial history from the previous five years.  If DPW discovers that an applicant has transferred a home for less than fair market value, it will penalize the applicant by denying her Medicaid for a period of time.  If a homeowner anticipates a stay in a nursing home facility, she should contact an attorney before transacting any business regarding the ownership of her home.

The rumors of losing one’s home, we believe, have their origin in Pennsylvania’s Estate Recovery Program (ERP).  ERP is a program mandated by the federal government that requires all states to seek recovery from the estate of a deceased person the cost of long term nursing care paid for by Medicaid.  This law is only applicable to Medicaid recipients over 55 y.o.  Additionally, this law only takes effect after the person receiving nursing care has passed away.

Because Medicaid is a program for low-income individuals, often the only asset left in a person’s estate is the home.  Upon the death of the Medicaid recipient, DPW will send a letter to the family asking for an accounting of the deceased’s estate.  This will be followed by a claim from DPW for the cost of care provided while the individual was receiving a Medicaid grant.

However, there are many ways to avoid having to subject a home to estate recovery.  The law requires that DPW grant hardship waivers in certain circumstances (spouses, disabled children, care-givers who provided significant care prior to the entry of deceased into a nursing home).  CLS often works with family members to get these waivers.

Because of the rampant rumors about ERP, many people will not apply for Medicaid, and in turn, not receive the necessary medical care they require.  Individuals who need long-term, skilled-nursing care should know:

1)  You do not have to give up ownership of your home in order to receive a  Medicaid grant for long-term skilled nursing care.

2) Recovery from the individual’s estate after they decease is not inevitable, and many times avoidable.