Many of you have been following the renewal of the General Assistance Program (GA) in Pennsylvania since last September when the PA Supreme Court ruled it’s elimination unconstitutional. GA is up and running again through the Department of Human Services, but many of us have been concerned that Republicans in the General Assembly would try to kill it. That’s exactly what’s happening.
HB 33, sponsored by Rep. Dunbar, has been introduced to statutorily eliminate the program. Republicans have made “re-eliminating" GA their top priority. Even if they don’t eliminate the program in statute, Republicans are expected not to appropriate the $50 million the Wolf Administration estimates it needs for the program.
Rather than fight this, the Administration is preparing a housing program to absorb the $50 million. They are proposing to re-appropriate the $50M estimated to fund general assistance (GA) cash payments to the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE) with restrictions on allowable projects to target individuals who may have been eligible for GA cash.
The additional housing that would be funded would be earmarked for the GA population and would be administered by PA’s 67 counties. The Wolf people are saying that the proposal to invest the $50M, which is the estimated annual cost to fulfill the General Assistance cash payments, is an alternative to the elimination of GA. It's an opportunity to ensure that the funding continues to benefit the most vulnerable populations in Pennsylvania.
There are lots of reasons this idea is wrongheaded. First of all - Housing is not cash!!! Secondly, there is no way the PHARE program could help all the people who will qualify for GA. Currently there are about 4,440 and PHARE couldn’t cover that many even with the $50 million.
Our friends at Community Legal Services are asking people to call the Governor and urge him not to say he’ll move the money to PHARE. It is a popular program that will get its own funding.
Ask the Governor to defend GA and not send a message that he’ll give in.
If you have questions, please contact Rich Weishaupt at CLS RWeishaupt@clsphila.org, 215-981-3773