Latest DPW figures bring bad news

June 10, 2012

The Department of Public Welfare’s latest statistics for April were just released and they continue to paint a sad, even alarming picture. Total enrollment of kids in Medicaid and CHIP is down again, by 4,128 children. That’s more than an entire high school of kids who won’t be able to see a doctor for a broken bone, a pair of glasses or an immunization. Remember when we had a bipartisan consensus to cover all kids? What happened? So far no explanation.

Remember when the goal of welfare was to move people to work and self-sufficiency? The latest DPW data shows that the Administration is doing a very poor job of training people and helping them find work. Only 5.3% of TANF families have any earnings from work, down from 7.6% in the month that the Corbett Administration took office. TANF case closures based on earnings are also far below that of the previous Administration – only 1610 cases were closed last month because the family got a job that paid enough to move them off assistance. Some might say reducing the welfare to work budget by 40% might have contributed to this trend, but the Administration has turned more and more to punishing people for perceived shortcomings. Disqualification for failure to abide by the byzantine rules of the new system (a process known as sanctioning) has increased markedly – 807 families were newly sanctioned last month, bringing the total number of sanctioned families in April to 1907. Even more disturbing, 863 families, including the children, were denied all cash assistance. Not satisfied with “only” punishing 863 families, DPW is rumored to be seeking authority to cut off all the children in all families.

In short, Pennsylvania has moved away from helping families find work, to punishing entire families when parents are unable navigate the system. We changed from “welfare to work” to “welfare to nothing.”


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 »