Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today provided an update on the February 2021 public assistance enrollment numbers and reminded Pennsylvanians that safety net programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Cash Assistance, Medical Assistance (MA), and Low-Income Household Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is available for individuals and families struggling to feed themselves, cover basic expenses, access health care and pay home heating bills. Secretary Miller also announced that the 2020-2021 LIHEAP season is extended and will now be accepting applications through April 30, 2021.
“Our public assistance network is designed to be a lifeline that ensures people can go to the doctor, have enough to eat, or pay for their utilities as other bills and needs arise, even in our most difficult times,” Secretary Miller said. “No one should feel like they have to endure the stress, anxiety and uncertainty that many have experienced in the past year alone. Hope is ahead, but there are still great needs in our communities. If you or someone you know needs a helping hand, let us try to help you so we can get through this crisis together.
Statewide enrollment for MA has increased by 388,615 since February 2020, for a total enrollment of 3,220,178 in February 2021, an increase of 13.7%.
Pennsylvanians who have lost health coverage or are currently uninsured and need coverage for themselves or their children may be eligible for coverage through MA or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) . MA and CHIP provide coverage for routine and emergency health services, testing and screening, and prescriptions, and COVID-19 testing and treatment is covered by both MA and CHIP. MA and CHIP enroll individuals throughout the year and do not have a limited or special enrollment period, so those in need of health coverage can apply for these programs at any time. There are income limits for IA, but all uninsured children are eligible for full health, vision, and dental coverage through CHIP, regardless of their parents’ income.
SNAP registrations statewide have increased by 71,440 since February 2020, for a total registration of approximately 1,808,899 in February 2021, an increase of 4.1%. In contrast to the steady growth in MA enrollment since the start of the pandemic, SNAP enrollment has seen both increases and decreases, including a slight decrease each month since September 2020.
SNAP helps more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians shop for fresh food and groceries, helping families with limited or strained resources to be able to keep food on the table while meeting other bills and needs. Inadequate diet and chronic nutritional deficiencies have profound effects on a person’s life and health, including increased risk of chronic disease, increased risk of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased cost of care. health. As the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, access to basic needs like food is more important than ever to help keep vulnerable populations healthy and mitigate concurrent health risks.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is no longer considered income for individuals applying for SNAP eligibility. This opens up SNAP as a potential option to help more people who have lost income or jobs due to the pandemic.
Assistance with home energy bills is also available through LIHEAP. LIHEAP helps eligible people pay their home heating bills so they don’t have to choose between staying warm and safe during the winter months and dealing with unaffordable home energy bills. Assistance is available for renters and landlords, and LIHEAP can help with both normal bills and emergencies like broken heating equipment that needs to be repaired or replaced, running out of fuel, or the risk of termination without the current moratorium on shutting down utilities.
Pennsylvanians who are struggling to pay their utility bills or find themselves in an emergency situation are strongly encouraged to see if LIHEAP can help avoid racking up unpaid bills that may be difficult to pay when the moratorium on utility cuts will end. LIHEAP applications opened on November 2, 2020 and was originally scheduled to close on April 9, 2021. The LIHEAP season will now run until April 30, 2021.
“This winter has brought one of the most difficult times of this pandemic so far, and we know the economic circumstances are likely to be tight for those in difficult circumstances,” Secretary Miller said. “Extending the LIHEAP season gives people in need more time to apply for and use available assistance to cover unpaid bills and expenses. Don’t be afraid to ask for this help so you don’t face expensive bills or shutting down utilities when the moratorium on utility shutdowns expires. This program exists to help get through the tough times – let’s help our entire Commonwealth get through the one we still face.
Applications for SNAP, Cash Assistance, MA, LIHEAP, Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and other public assistance programs that provide cash assistance can be submitted online at www.compass.state.pa.us. For those who prefer to submit a paper application, options are available. Although our County Assistance Offices (CAOs) remain closed, paper applications can be picked up. Applications can also be printed from the website or requested by phone at 1-800-692-7462 and mailed to their local CEO or placed in a CAD’s secure drop box, if available. You do not need to know your own eligibility to apply. While OACs remain closed, processing applications, determining eligibility and issuing benefits continues. Customers should use COMPASS or the MyCOMPASS PA mobile app to submit necessary updates to their records while the CADs are closed to the public.
For more information on food assistance resources for people in Pennsylvania impacted by COVID-19 and accompanying economic insecurity, visit the Department of Agriculture website. food safety guide.
For more information on public assistance programs, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.
MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James – [email protected]
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