Back in June, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed House Bill 33, which eliminated General Assistance and the benefits that came with it. Now, a new Bill has been introduced that would restore those benefits.

General Assistance provided 11,000 vulnerable Pennsylvanians with 200 a month to pay for necessities. It was eliminated in June, and those residents lost the benefits of the General Assistance program on August 1st. Now, some Pennsylvania lawmakers are trying to bring the benefits back. It’s called the Emergency Relief Program.

“This program would restore and expand the eliminated General Assistance program providing much needed aid to an already vulnerable population,” says Jennifer Wolff, a Policy Analyst for the Pennsylvania Health Access Network.

Senator Katie Muth (D- Berks, Chester, Montgomery) has been an advocate of General Assistance, and was vocal when the program was on the brink of elimination. She’s now sponsoring Senate Bill 799, the Emergency Relief Program.

“This [elimination of GA] was not just cruel, it was shameful. And I hope that we are able to get this emergency relief act passed,” Senator Muth says.

The Emergency Relief Program would temporarily provide vulnerable Pennsylvanians with around $200 per month to help pay for necessities. This includes items like toiletries, utilities, transportation, and medicine. Supporters of the Bill say it’s about helping fellow residents in a time of need.

“It’s now time for all of us to remind the legislature that we’re all human beings, and that each of us is of value, no matter how wealthy or poor or somewhere in between we are,” explains Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D- Chester). 

The Emergency Relief Program would specifically help people with disabilities who are unable to work, those fighting a substance abuse disorder, qualified veterans, domestic violence survivors, and others. Senator Muth says the program would decrease the reliance on shelters, hospitalization, and foster care, which would save money for Pennsylvania taxpayers. Those who relied on General Assistance say this Bill would provide temporary help so they can afford to live while getting back on their feet.

“I was in recovery, and the funds that the state provided were greatly appreciated. They helped me to do my laundry and to have money for transportation to look for work,” says Thomas Walker, a Vietnam Veteran who relied on the General Assistance program.

Senate Bill 799 was referred to the Health and Human Services Committee. There’s a companion Bill in the House as well, House Bill 1709, sponsored by Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D- Philadelphia). HB1709 is currently sitting in the House Health Committee.