Dept of Public Welfare seeks to reduce supportive services that help families move from welfare to work

May 28, 2010

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare recently proposed regulations that would cut supportive services payments to families moving from welfare to work.  These payments, called special allowances, allow families receiving TANF or SNAP (food stamp) benefits to obtain employment, education, or training.   DPW’s proposed regulations are worrisome.  In its quest to save $6 million per year, DPW will make it much more difficult for families to obtain the education and training they need to permanently move out of poverty.

Community Legal Services submitted detailed objections [pdf] urging DPW to withdraw these proposed regulations.

Current TANF grants pay less than one-third of the poverty line.  A family of three, for example, receives only $403 per month in most Pennsylvania counties.  This is simply not enough to pay the costs of transportation, books, school supplies and other work supports that families face when trying to better themselves and move off of welfare.

Among other things, DPW’s proposed regulations would impose low and arbitrary limits on the special allowances that a family might receive.  For example, an individual would only be able to receive $2,000 in her lifetime to spend on books and school supplies, and $1,500 per year on transportation     If a parent reaches the maximum payment for transportation or books and supplies, she may be forced to abandon her education or training, quit a job, or stop looking for work.  These arbitrary limits will prevent many people from making enough money to leave welfare behind.

It appears that DPW’s main goal is to save money at the expense of the poorest Pennsylvanians – even at the risk of preventing those families from gaining education or jobs enabling them to escape poverty. Read the rest of this entry »

With strong advocacy from CLS, City launches Way to Work Philadelphia!

May 21, 2010

On May 19th, Mayor Nutter announced the beginning of Way to Work Philadelphia!, a subsidized jobs program,  funded by the federal stimulus bill, that will employ 5,000 low-income Philadelphians.  Jobs can pay up to $13 an hour.

Read the rest of this entry »

CLS represents employee against landscaper in wage theft case

May 18, 2010

John worked as a landscaper for an employer based outside of Philadelphia for about three years.   He had no problems for the first two years that he worked.  He was paid on time.  He was paid overtime when he worked more than 40 hours in a week.  And he got along well with his employer.

That all changed two years ago.  Read the rest of this entry »

Save adultBasic

May 11, 2010

Last week the House Insurance Committee held a hearing on the future of adultBasic. Adult Basic is a popular program that currently provides bare bones insurance to 40,000 Pennsylvanians who do not qualify for any other form of public or private insurance. It is so popular and fulfills such a great need that it has a waiting list of more than 390,000 people — 27% of all the uninsured in Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, the program is threatened because its funding mechanism is up for renewal. Up to now, it has been funded by a combination of public and private funds.  Both sources are threatened. The public source is the Pennsylvania share of the Tobacco Settlement Fund, which has dwindled over the last 5 years due to competing demands for funding.  More crucial, however, is the expiration of the Community Health Reinvestment Agreement.  The CHRA is an agreement between the state and the four Blue Cross organizations in Pennsylvania.    After considerable criticism by CLS and many others of what we contended was an excess Blue Cross surplus, the Blues promised the state they would contribute 60% of their community benefit funds to funding adult Basic.  That agreement runs out December 31, 2010, leaving adult Basic on life support.  Representative Todd Eachus has introduced House Bill 2455 to preserve the program and assessing the not for profit Blues 2.4% of their premiums, about what they would pay if they were a for profit company.  CLS testified  in favor of the bill, as did Sharon Ward of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.  The Blues vigorously opposed it.

Time will tell if the popular program survives.  It would be tragic if this last ray of hope was extinguished for the 1.4 million Pennsylvanians without insurance, especially since we only need to bridge the 3 years untill federal health reform is implemented.

Pennsylvania Medicare Beneficiaries Settle Case Against the Department of Public Welfare

May 3, 2010

Narcissa Garcia was struggling to live on her monthly disability payment of $695.00.  Her struggle was made more difficult by having her monthly benefit reduced by almost $100 to pay for the monthly Medicare Part B premium.  In November 2008, she applied and was approved for Medicaid benefits, part of which would have Pennsylvania pay her monthly Part B premium.  Because of delays, Ms. Garcia had to wait six months before Pennsylvania began paying the premium, while her monthly benefit was still being reduced.

On April 23, 2010, Ms. Garcia, the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE), and the Arc of Pennsylvania entered into a court settlement with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW).  The case, Garcia, et  al. v.  Kathleen Sebelius, et al. was a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of all Pennsylvania residents who are eligible or  will become eligible for the Medicare Savings Program (MSP), the Medical Assistance program that pays the Medicare premiums for eligible Pennsylvania residents.  Advocates from Community Legal Services and the Center for Medicare Advocacy represented the  plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  You can go here to read a press release regarding the settlement. Read the rest of this entry »