Proposed Cuts to Dept of Public Welfare Would Harm Families Moving from Welfare to Work

March 25, 2011

Overall, Governor Corbett’s proposed budget announced earlier this month did not include deep budget cuts to the Department of Public Welfare (DPW).  However, the details of specific cuts are alarming.  The proposed budget includes $56.1 million in cuts from a “Fair Share” initiative, which would dramatically cut DPW’s welfare-to-work and operational budget, with serious consequences for low income families.

The “Fair Share” initiative cuts $14.4 million from “employment and training ancillary services and support costs.”  It also cuts $41.7 million from County Assistance Offices and employment and training providers, through savings from “rightsizing employment and training contracts.”

Specifically, the budget cuts:

  • $15 million from county assistance offices,
  • $14.8 million from education and training providers, and
  • $11.9 million from cash grants.

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LIHEAP Application Deadline Extended

March 23, 2011

On March 14, 2011, Governor Tom Corbett’s administration announced that Pennsylvania’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, will be extended more than two weeks to April 15th, giving eligible households extra time to seek help paying their winter heating bills.

The federally funded LIHEAP program, which began accepting applications last November, was originally set to end March 31, but  has now been extended through April 15.

LIHEAP, administered through the Department of Public Welfare, provides cash grants to help low-income households pay for home heating fuel and crisis grants to address heating emergencies such as a furnace failure or unexpected fuel shortages.

CLS urges its clients to apply for this program soon if they need assistance paying for their gas, electric, or oil bills.

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A Trip Down the Rabbit Hole of Mortgage Servicing in 2011 America

March 9, 2011

In the summer of 2010, Ms. Dominguez (all names have been changed), fell behind on her mortgage with Bank of America (BOA), and came to Community Legal Services (CLS) for help.  While she was behind, there was a positive: she sought help very early in the process, and a foreclosure had not yet been filed against her.

So with help from a local housing counselor, our plan was to help her apply with BOA for any loan modification programs for which she might be eligible, including the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).  HAMP is the Obama Administrations’ program ostensibly designed for struggling homeowners like Ms. Dominguez.  Under HAMP, the loan is made more affordable and supposedly everyone wins, including the investors who get a performing loan rather than inevitable foreclosure losses and the homeowner who saves her house.

It seemed fairly simple.  Instead, it turned into another example of how difficult it is for honest, hard-working families to find any relief from their mortgage companies, even when they are legally entitled. Read the rest of this entry »