Governor’s Budget Includes Decrease for Cash Assistance Program

Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget for 2011-12 has been released, and it shows interesting trends in funding to the Department of Public Welfare. The governor has proposed increasing funds for Medicaid, which is a good development for the state.

Enrollment in Medical Assistance is projected to increase in 2011-12 by 4.5% to 2,273,555 Pennsylvanians. Overall state funding for MA is $5.2 billion in the budget plan, reflecting the expected increase in enrollment and additional utilization costs. It also reflects a significant increase in state funding to make up for lost FMAP funding.

Unfortunately, cash assistance grants, meant to help families in need cover basic living expenses like housing, utilities, clothing, and more, have still not increased. It has been over 21 years since there was an increase in cash assistance levels on January 1, 1990. The grant levels that families (who are overwhelmingly single mothers with one or two children) receive are too low to begin with and their real value, when adjusted for inflation, gets lower and lower each year. The number of families and individuals needing assistance is expected to increase this year:

Enrollment in cash assistance programs is projected to increase slightly in 2011-12 to 256,005. Funding for cash grants, however, was cut by 10% to $249 million.

In this proposed budget, the governor’s office has ignored the situation of today’s needy families. It is time to provide those who have fallen on hard time with the assistance they need to survive and the real ability to escape the cycle of poverty.

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